User:Brian.Sikute/Upcoming Projects/Sandbox/ICTs in Business

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

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

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? Ubuntu is an operating system built by a worldwide team of expert developers. It contains all the applications you need: a web browser, office suite, media apps, instant messaging and much more.

Ubuntu is an open-source alternative to Windows and Office.

The Ubuntu promise

  • Ubuntu will always be free of charge, along with its regular enterprise releases and security updates
  • Ubuntu comes with full commercial support from Canonical and hundreds of companies from across the world
  • Ubuntu provides the best translations and accessibility features that the free software community has to offer
  • Ubuntu core applications are all free and open source. We want you to use free and open source software, improve it and pass it on.

Software Center Instant access to thousands of free and open-source applications. Categories include Education, Games, Sound and Video, Graphics, Programming and Office. Simply select the applications you want to use and the Ubuntu Software Center will add them to your computer. No CDs, no licenses, no hassle.

Office applications Create professional documents, spreadsheets and presentations with 3.1. is compatible with all office applications including Microsoft Office. The big difference is that is free (and promises never to introduce Mr Clippy).

Email and chat

  • Chat with friends and colleagues through Empathy which integrates Yahoo, Gmail, MSN, Jabber, AOL, QQ and many more.
  • Evolution gives you email, an address book and a calendar and works well with colleagues and friends using MS Outlook.

Browse the Internet Ubuntu includes Mozilla Firefox 3.5 for faster and safer browsing. For a choice of other open-source web browsers visit the Ubuntu Software Center and take your pick.


  • Upload from your camera or phone to F-Spot.
  • Manage, tag, share and sort your photos.
  • Upload easily to your favourite social network or photo-sharing sites including Flickr, Facebook, Picasa and many others.

Music and videos

  • Plug in your PSP, iPod, MP3 player and use Rhythmbox to download, store, buy and play music.
  • Share playlists with your friends.
  • Access directly through Rhythmbox to stream your favourite music.
  • Stream and play video from YouTube, BBC and others.

Play games

  • Over 400 completely free and completely cool games. Solitaire is not the only game in town.
  • Visit the Ubuntu Software Center to easily browse, select and install games.

Store, sync and share

  • Integrated "Ubuntu One" technology gives you 2 GB of online storage for free.
  • Easily share files between your own and your friends' computers.
  • Upgrade at low cost for more storage if you need it.

Accessibility At the core of the Ubuntu philosophy is the belief that computing is for everyone, whatever your circumstances. Ubuntu is one of the most accessible operating systems around and is fully translated into 23 languages with many more to follow.