Impact on Business

Traditional businesses surviving today have, on the whole, embraced IT either with open arms or as a necessary evil.  In the 1970s many businesses that did embrace the new technologies foundered, as did whole industries.  Businesses like banks and older insurance companies, oil companies, national retailers and so on have IT systems that have evolved and grown with the business.  As a result many of these systems are a hotch-potch of new technology (point of sale systems, cash-points, etc.) and old but proven systems like mainframe accounting.  At no time was all the old thrown out and replaced with the new.

Modern businesses often exist because of an IS-driven business model.  New-style insurance companies who advertise heavily and do most of their business by telephone are examples.  Another would be a new bank, such as the Virgin One Account that opened in 1997, based on a call centre and totally computerised system and complemented by the launch of an Internet banking operation in February 2000.  Call centres are another business existing because of and depending on an Information System that is actually a type of expert system (Trainline, Dell Computers, NHS direct are good examples).

Identities and personas

As society adapts to use the Internet as a medium for communication, these changes are having a dramatic impact on people’s lives. The ability to communicate with all – regardless of age, sex, location or knowledge – is having a liberating effect on people’s Internet identities and the personas they project.

The Internet allows people to develop different identities when communicating in different forums. People do not need to be experts or have specific knowledge to offer an opinion on a specialised newsgroup or chat-room.

The downside of this is of course the now-criminal offence of ‘grooming’, where an adult, usually male, pretends to be a young male keen to meet young girls.  There has been much of this on the news and many parents are frightened to let their teenagers on the Internet without either supervision or some software which blocks dubious sites.


Wall street wonder

Schoolboy Jonathan Lebed got into big trouble – for making a fortune in his bedroom. Working from his computer, the 15year-old did his homework on the US stock exchange and made $800,000 by the time he was fifteen. In one day alone, Jonathan banked nearly $70,000 after posting hundreds of messages on the Internet, urging people to buy shares in a toy company.

The price shot up and he then sold his own shares at a huge profit, but the US financial authorities were not happy, claiming Jonathan had manipulated the market. Jonathan eventually settled out of court with the authorities – he paid back $300,000 of the money he had made, but kept half a million dollars.

Jonathan claims he was only doing what the professionals do every day.  He says: ‘I think that, with the technology we have today with the Internet, it makes everybody equal and they definitely do have a chance of being right up there with the Wall Street professionals.’

Legal eagle

Teenager Marcus Arnold, 15, started giving legal advice on the Internet just six months ago, initially telling people he was 20. During that time, he answered almost a thousand queries, including giving advice to the mother of a man charged with first-degree murder.

So highly-rated was his advice, that the users of one prominent website voted him the best legal expert out of a field of over one hundred offering advice, many of them much better legally qualified. Marcus, whose ultimate ambition is to be a Supreme Court judge, has attracted criticism from some lawyers.

But he says: ‘I’m just like everyone out there, I want to be noticed. I mean I’m 15 right now; I want people to know who I am. I’m not there to take business away from other people, that’s not my job.’




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