How the in­ter­net has changed our world

Malta Independent - - ENEWS & TECH -

Vince Far­ru­gia is a Tech­nol­ogy and Se­cu­rity Man­ager at Deloitte Malta.

This was prob­a­bly the case some 30 years back, which not too long ago when you con­sider the changes that have gone by! Chil­dren nowa­days do not imag­ine a world with­out smart­phones, Wi-Fi, tablets and so­cial me­dia. So how did the in­ter­net change the world?

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion

Prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant change was in com­mu­ni­ca­tion. In the stone ages, long-dis­tance com­mu­ni­ca­tion was most likely equiv­a­lent to yelling at your neigh­bour. Let­ters were even­tu­ally in­vented which made the world seem smaller, and in the 20th cen­tury, the tele­phone and fax ma­chines nar­rowed dis­tances even more. But nowa­days, even th­ese tech­nolo­gies are con­sid­ered an­cient. With so­cial me­dia, tex­ting, email and video chat, fax ma­chines are some­times con­sid­ered as mu­seum pieces. In so­cial me­dia, most peo­ple have a lot of con­tacts called ‘friends’, but would prob­a­bly not be able to reel off their ac­tual phone num­ber! Who needs to re­mem­ber num­bers when your smart­phone or tablet can store them for you? Look­ing ahead, tra­di­tional mail might very well soon be­come a thing of the past and will only be used for par­cel de­liv­ery.

Shop­ping

Which leads us to shop­ping. Tra­di­tional shop­ping is get­ting less and less pop­u­lar. Maybe it’s some­thing to do with crowds and peo­ple be­ing lazy… but with on­line shop­ping, you can search for the prod­uct on­line, com­pare prices from var­i­ous re­tail­ers, and then make our pur­chase all from the com­fort of your home af­ter busi­ness hours. It is no se­cret that the postal ser­vices are be­ing used more and more for such types of de­liv­er­ies, and less and less for tra­di­tional mail de­liv­ery. Even per­sonal items like shoes and cloth­ing are be­ing pur­chased more of­ten on­line. Gone are the days where peo­ple needed to try on the item be­fore buy­ing it. Nowa­days, due to ef­fi­cient re­turn pro­grammes, the av­er­age per­son is more trust­ing and will opt to buy things on­line where they might have thought twice in the past.

Re­search and books

When I used to live with my par­ents, they had this huge col­lec­tion of books on the shelf called an En­cy­clopae­dia. Through the in­ter­net, one can search in­stantly about things that one wants to know. On­line searches have made us be­come our own doc­tors, nu­tri­tion­ists and home im­prove­ment gu­rus. In a few min­utes, you can go from know­ing noth­ing to think­ing of your­self as be­ing the sub­ject mat­ter ex­pert on cer­tain top­ics. The only down­side to this is that not all ar­ti­cles you might find on the in­ter­net are re­li­able. I re­mem­ber a time about 10 years ago, where Wikipedia was con­sid­ered an un­re­li­able source of in­for­ma­tion ac­cord­ing to univer­sity lec­tur­ers – though a li­brary is still a great place to ex­pe­ri­ence re­search, even lec­tur­ers re­sort to on­line re­search nowa­days.

En­ter­tain­ment

Gone are the days when one needed to set the VCR timer ahead in or­der to record a favourite TV pro­gramme. Nowa­days, with all the me­dia stream­ing avail­able, one can just watch what­ever once chooses on­line and when­ever one wishes. You do not even need to be home to watch it, as most por­ta­ble smart­phones, lap­tops or tablets can stream movies over Wi-Fi or 4G.

Bank­ing

Be­lieve it or not, you were re­quired to phys­i­cally go to your near­est bank branch to check your ac­count bal­ance un­til only a few years ago. Nowa­days, you do not need to queue for long hours on a week­end to get cash or to de­posit a cheque. More im­por­tantly, your money is avail­able all over the world from any ATM you want within a few clicks and sec­onds.

Travel

Pulling out an at­las be­fore a road trip and hav­ing sev­eral ar­gu­ments about di­rec­tions while on a trip, or wait­ing in line at an air­line ticket of­fice to book flights or ho­tels is ba­si­cally a thing of the past. Thanks to GPS, on­line maps apps and on­line travel agen­cies, plan­ning a trip, buy­ing tick­ets and get­ting to des­ti­na­tions are just a few clicks or touches away. Also, know­ing about your des­ti­na­tion be­fore you even start buy­ing tick­ets is so much eas­ier be­cause of the amount of in­for­ma­tion read­ily avail­able on the in­ter­net, of­ten with re­views made by other peo­ple who have al­ready vis­ited the place you’re go­ing to!

In­ter­net ac­cess sta­tis­tics

De­spite all this, the num­ber of users that have ac­cess to the in­ter­net at least once a year in the world was a stag­ger­ing lowly 38% in 2015, and those with reg­u­lar in­ter­net ac­cess sig­nif­i­cantly lower. How­ever, study­ing the de­mo­graph­ics in­di­cates that this is in­creas­ing rapidly ev­ery year.

In­ter­net ac­cess means pros­per­ity

The most in­ter­est­ing statis­tic is that in­ter­net ac­cess is most avail­able in the more de­vel­oped coun­tries. For ex­am­ple, the Amer­i­cas and Europe have a much larger in­ter­net ac­cess per­cent­age (65% and 75% re­spec­tively) than Asia and Africa (32% and 19%). Re­cently, a study showed that in­ter­net ac­cess has also a di­rect pos­i­tive ef­fect on growth in firms.

Con­clu­sion

Most peo­ple think that the in­ter­net rev­o­lu­tionised the world in a very pos­i­tive way. Oth­ers think that peo­ple have be­come much lazier and there­fore move less, in­creas­ing health prob­lems in­clud­ing obe­sity and heart dis­ease.

Which­ever way you look at it, the in­ter­net changed the world dra­mat­i­cally within a short span of time, and few would ar­gue against this fact.

For more in­for­ma­tion, please visit http://www2.deloitte.com/mt

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