Ipyet/ICTs in Businesses

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Module 4.2: Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Business

A discussion paper by
Brian Sikute

Welcome to the Information and Communication Technology (ICTs) in Business session. What makes this session exciting is the fact that ICTs have changed the way that we live, communicate, work including and now, the way that we learn. I look forward to sharing and having discussions on how that we can enhance the way that we do business using ICTs.


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The objectives will be to:-

  1. Enhance participants understanding of ICTS in Business
  2. Introduce participants to Sustainable ICTs for Business


Advances in information communication technology (ICT) have made it possible to work and communicate faster and more efficiently than before. Business enterprises, particularly those with more resources and expertise, have harnessed the opportunities made available through this technology and used them to enhance their business operations and become more profitable.

This session will look at available technologies that can be employed to enhance business operations while keeping the cost of such technologies low. Discussions will focus on introducing participants to ‘free and open source’ technology options for businesses. We shall call these options ‘Sustainable ICTs’.

Benefits of ICTs

In the area of economic development, ICT can provide access to markets and jobs, and promote competition and efficiency. It cannot feed the poor but can enable wealth creation and cost reduction through applications such as price discovery, marketing assistance (using eBay-like auction exchanges), and finding jobs through online job search tools (such as monster.com).

ICT and e-commerce offer benefits for a wide range of business processes. At firm level, ICT and its applications can make communication within the firm faster and make the management of the firm’s resources more efficient. Seamless transfer of information through shared electronic files and networked computers increases the efficiency of business processes such as documentation, data processing and other back-office functions (e.g. organising incoming orders and preparing invoices). Increasingly sophisticated ICT applications such as KMS (Knowledge Management System) and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) allow firms to store share and use their acquired knowledge and know-how. For example, customer databases with a history of client-specific correspondence help managers and employees to respond more effectively to customers. A company-wide electronic data source aims to disseminate employees’ professional experience, for example tips for winning a contract, from which others in the firm can learn (Box 1).

At inter-firm level, the Internet and e-commerce have great potential for reducing transaction costs and increasing the speed and reliability of transactions. They can also reduce inefficiencies resulting from lack of co-ordination between firms in the value chain. Internet-based B2B interaction and real-time communication can reduce information asymmetries between buyers and suppliers and build closer relationships among trading partners (Moodley, 2002). In fact, adopters of e-commerce tend reduce transaction costs, increase transaction speed and reliability, and extract maximum value from transactions in their value chains (OECD, 2002a).


Can we build a picture of good ICT sustainability from the theories and lessons learned used in other development sectors?

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Definitions of sustainability

There is considerable debate over the term sustainability. In an ICT expert discussion (Imfundo April 2002), sustainability was defined (for the purpose of the discussion) as: ‘Investments which continue to produce a return’. “Return” was defined in its broadest sense (i.e. beyond financial and including educational, social, etc.). In this definition an activity could be sustainable if it produces a return which is not necessarily financial.

Unsustainable systems deplete or run down capital, spending assets as if they were income, and so leaving less for future generations. The approach differentiates between different kinds of sustainability which are useful in relation to ICTs:

  • Economic sustainability; achieved when a given level of expenditure can be maintained over time.
  • Social sustainability; achieved when social exclusion is minimised and social equity maximised.

Hypothesis: - Sustainability of an ICT activity is likely to be strongly influenced by the technology used e.g. operation and repair may be critical to the success of the activity. In other sectors it has been found that some form of standardisation of a technology instrument has helped development ensuring a sufficient use to encourage a market that can supply spares and technology support.

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Case Study

Technology Empowerment Centre, CYP Africa Centre

The Technology Empowerment Centre at the CYP Africa Centre is an Internet and Business centre providing Internet browsing. Others services include printing, photocopying, scanning, software updates, etc.

The Centre recently moved from using commercial/proprietary software to the use of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). Before this, the Centre would spend a minimal of USD8450 on software including operating system, application and antivirus programs plus recurring annual software license fees.

Since the deployment of Free and Open Source Software solutions huge savings have been made (approximately 100% on software acquisition and maintenance) and implicit savings on hardware as FOSS can do a lot with only a little hardware.

Other implicit cost savings

  • Security - Installations of open source server software are more secure than a commercial alternative and therefore, there is a lower risk of losing data or productive staff time needed to clean up after a security breach.
  • Lower virus vulnerability - Open source servers that are less vulnerable to virus infections provide cost savings in terms of decreased liability in these areas.
  • Upgrade or recurring licensing costs - With open source software, updates are continually free.

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

Technology is an increasingly essential resource. But as budgets tighten, however, business enterprises are coming under pressure to articulate the costs and benefits of existing and planned technology expenditures. Thus, adoption of total cost of ownership (TCO) and return on investment (ROI) tools to measure the cost and effectiveness of technology initiatives are becoming more common. Gartner, a leading information technology research firm, defines Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) as a comprehensive set of methodologies, models and tools to help organizations better measure and manage their IT investments. Simply stated, TCO evaluates all costs, direct and indirect, incurred throughout the life-cycle of an IT asset, including acquisition and procurement, operations and maintenance, and end-of-life management.

Table 1 shows the model into which cost components are loaded, which is listed along the left side of the table. Each column represents the individual years of a PC’s life cycle; the cost for a component appears in the appropriate year. For example, the PC acquisition cost (sample cost of USD 1,150 used) occurs only once, at the beginning of the first year of the PC’s life cycle. Other costs, such as software and patch deployment, occur every year.

Table 1. Cash Flow (U.S. Dollars per PC per Year)

Cash Flow Description
Year 1
Year 2
Year 3
Year 4
Year 5
Notebook PC Acquisition Cost
PC Engineering (Build)
PC Deployment and Logistics
Software and Patch Deployment
Help Desk Support (First Level)
Deskside Support (Second Level)
Out-of-warranty Repair
Additional Upgrades and Peripherals
Retrieval and Disposal Costs
Disposal Cost Recovery
USD (590)
USD 377
USD 184
USD (115)
USD (306)

Ongoing costs such as software and patch deployment increase each year that the PC is in service. Retrieval/disposal costs and disposal cost recovery are incurred only in the final year. Out-of-warranty repair costs emerge as the warranty expires, in the fourth year. (Note: Costs used here are only sample data; costs vary with each organization.)

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What Open-source software packages are your familiar with?

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So you're probably thinking, "If open source software saves people so much money, why isn't everyone using it?" Two words: learning curve. The learning curve that must be followed by a first-time open source software user can be very time consuming and frustrating. For many, especially in public education, this difficulty constitutes a roadblock to the deployment of open source solutions.

Further reading

  • Ashley C. and Carney D. (1999) Sustainable livelihoods: Lessons from early experience, DFID: London
  • Engel P.G.H (1995) The social organization of innovation: a focus on stakeholder interaction, Royal Tropical Institute:The Netherlands
  • Roling N.G. and Wagemakers M.A.E. (eds) (1998) Facilitaing Sustainable Agriculture, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge
  • Thorngate, W. (1995)‘Measuring the effects of information on development’ in Making a difference: measuring the impact of information on development, Proceedings of a workshop held in Ottawa Canada 10-12 July 1995, Edited by Paul McConnell, IDRC
  • Velden, M. van der (2002) ‘Knowledge facts, knowledge fiction: the role of ICTs in knowledge management for development’ Journal of International development, Special Issue: Information and copmmunication technologies (ICTs) and development, Editor Richard Heeks, Volume 14, No1 January 2002, Wiley
  • Zielinski, C. (2001) ‘The changing role of information in development’, , Conference paper, The Institute of Information Scientists (IIS): Information for development forum (IDF) Development and information 2001 seminar, Impact Evaluation of Services and Projects.
  • OECD (2002a), “The Impacts of Electronic Commerce on Business: Summary”,
  • DSTI/ICCP/IE(2002)5/FINAL, OECD, Paris.
  • Moodley, S. (2002), “E-Business in the South African Apparel Sector: a Utopian Vision of Efficiency?” The Developing Economics, March, pp. 67-100.

Open-Source Platforms - Ubuntu

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Open-source software (OSS) is computer software that is available in source code form for which the source code and certain other rights normally reserved for copyright holders are provided under a software license that permits users to study, change, improve and at times also to distribute the software.

Some open source licenses meet the requirements of the Open Source Definition. Some open source software is available within the public domain.

Open source software is very often developed in a public, collaborative manner. Open-source software is the most prominent example of open-source development and often compared to (technically defined) user-generated content or (legally defined) open content movements.


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What is Ubuntu? Super-fast and great-looking, Ubuntu is a secure, intuitive operating system that powers desktops, servers, netbooks and laptops. Ubuntu is, and always will be, absolutely free.

Created by the best open-source experts from all over the world, Ubuntu is available in 24 languages and ready for download today.

Why use Ubuntu?

Ubuntu is easy to use And it comes with thousands of free applications. Ubuntu does everything you need it to. It'll work with your existing PC files, printers, cameras and MP3 players.

Ubuntu Features

Free apps, safe and fast web browsing, a dedicated music store and much more. Ubuntu brings the very best technologies straight to your desktop.

Browse the web

Ubuntu includes Mozilla Firefox – for fast, safe web browsing. You can also choose alternative browsers including Google Chromium from the Ubuntu Software Centre. Included software:

  • Firefox web browser Firefox web browser

Supported software:

  • Flash Flash
  • Google Chrome

Create professional documents and presentations

OpenOffice.org is fully compatible with Microsoft Office and has everything you need to create professional documents, spreadsheets and presentations. OpenOffice.org is easy to use, packed with the features you need and completely free.

Included software:

  • OpenOffice.org

Get all the software you need

The Ubuntu Software Centre gives you instant access to thousands of open-source and carefully selected free applications. And now you can buy apps too. Browse software in categories including: education, games, sound and video, graphics, programming and office. All the applications are easy to find, easy to install and easy to buy.

Featured applications from the Ubuntu Software Centre:

  • Blender – the world renowned tool for creating 3d artwork, animations and games.
  • Frozen Bubble – Play solo or join you friends in this addictive game as you try to burst the bubbles before they reach the bottom.
  • Cheese! – Have fun with your web cam. Use this simple app to take pictures, create special effects and share your photos with your friends.

Email and chat

Get chatting with Empathy. Quickly integrate your chat accounts from Yahoo, Gmail, MSN, Jabber, AOL, QQ and many more. Evolution Mail provides easy, intuitive email. Included software:

  • Empathy IM
  • Evolution Mail

Supported software:

  • Skype Skype
  • Thunderbird

Social from the start

Ubuntu's new Me Menu lets you access your Facebook and Twitter accounts straight from the desktop. You can connect to all your favourite chat channels and make updates through a single window. Being connected for work or fun has never been so easy.

Included software:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Identi.ca

Music streaming to your phone

New in 10.10. Ubuntu's music player includes an integrated store, so you can buy and download new tracks with just a few clicks. And thanks to Ubuntu One's file-syncing magic you can stream your music uninterrupted to your Android device or iPhone.

Included software:

  • Ubuntu One Music Store
  • Rhythmbox music player

Support for:

  • iPhone
  • Android

Photo magic

Ubuntu is chock full of apps to help you manage, fix and share your photos with the world, whatever gadget you use to take them. Support for cameras and phones is legendary and all without drivers. And Shotwell allows you to manage and share your pictures easily - on all the most popular photo and social network sites. And did we mention the apps are free?

Included software:

  • Shotwell
  • Flickr

Support for:

  • GIMP

Discover Ubuntu One

Ubuntu One is the personal cloud service that simplifies your digital life. Imagine buying music and getting it delivered to the computers of your choice. Or synchronising your files and notes and accessing them from anywhere. Or consolidating your computer and mobile phone contacts and safely sharing documents and pictures with them. Ubuntu One does all this and more.

Discover Ubuntu One

Make, play and edit video

Watch all your favourite content from YouTube, iPlayer, and MSN Player. Play your own videos with Movie Player or use Pitivi to edit your videos.

Included software:

  • Pitivi video editor
  • Movie Player

Start fast with Ubuntu

Ubuntu loads quickly on any computer, but it's super-fast on newer machines. After loading, opening a browser takes seconds, unlike other operating systems that leave you staring at the screen, waiting to get online.

Choose from hundreds of games

The Ubuntu Software Centre offers hundreds of games, including puzzles, adventures, tactical challenges and more. All free to choose and free to use.

Supported software:

  • Minecraft

Accessibility in Ubuntu

At the heart of Ubuntu's philosophy is the belief that computing is for everyone, whatever your circumstances. Ubuntu is one of the most accessible operating systems and is fully translated into 25 languages with more being added all the time.

Get Ubuntu Desktop Edition