Twenty-four hour news, e-commerce, international call-centres, mobile phones, Global Positioning Systems… all these are making the world smaller and faster.

Information society


Read the article (you can also listen to the audio while you read). Next go to Task and do the activity.

Audio icon Download audio 2.24MB (right click & save)

Information Society

by Richard Sidaway

Once upon a time societies were organised around religion, farming, trade or industry. In many parts of the world today this is still true, but something else is becoming more important – the exchange of information, and the technology that we use to do this. Twenty-four hour news, e-commerce, international call-centres, mobile phones, Global Positioning Systems … all these are making the world smaller and faster.

The growth in telecommunications is now giving more and more people access to democratic ideas, to the principles of international law and human rights, to the science that will help their country to develop or to the medical knowledge that can fight disease. It is starting a real global village which people only dreamed of a generation ago.

But how can everybody in the world share the recent technological advances? Millions of people cannot read these words because they don’t have access to a computer. They don’t understand English either, the language that 80% of the information is written in. They don’t even have a telephone. They are more worried about how far they will have to walk today to get clean water or if they can feed themselves and their families. For most people on this planet, information is not a priority.

The contrast between countries that have information technology and those that don’t is called the ‘digital divide’. Scandinavia and South East Asia have a high number of people who use Information Communication Technologies (ICT). Central Africa and the Pacific have almost none.

The United Nations is trying to make the information society a reality for more of the developing world. It wants to see rich countries transfer new technology and knowledge to poorer nations.

Ten years from now, the plan is that everybody in the world will have a radio or television and that 50% of the world’s population will have access to the internet from schools and universities, health centres and hospitals, libraries and museums. This will improve medical care and education, science and agriculture, business opportunities and employment. At the same time, they say, local communities, languages and cultures will become stronger.

Just a dream? Certainly there are some contradictions. Does only good come with freedom of information? If information is power, why will people share it? Doesn’t more technology mean fewer jobs? And how can the exchange of information keep local cultures alive if most of that information is only in one language?

It is much easier to get people connected to broadband or put government online in Europe than in South America or the Middle East. However, developing countries often leapfrog the process which richer nations went through, and avoid their mistakes. Brazil collects most of its taxes online these days. There are cyber cities in Dubai and Mauritius. And Taiwan and Hong Kong have better access to ICT than the United Kingdom. Maybe the English language isn’t so important after all.  

Perhaps the spread of technology means that the old centres of power are also changing. The United States introduced internet technology in the 1970s. But people are asking why they should continue to be in charge. Why should a small organisation in California tell the rest of the world how computers talk to each other?

The US says it makes the rules, but it doesn’t control the flow of information. The domain name system (DNS) controls how internet addresses work, but not what a website or database contains. Many want a more international approach, however. But they also want the internet to remain open and free for all to use.

Can the world create an information society for all? If a farmer in Bangladesh can read this in the year 2015, then maybe the answer is yes.





I have need to summarise this article. plz if anyone could so plz

best wishes

Hello naseeb,

Why don't you try to write a summary yourself and post it there? You will learn more from it and other users might have suggestions for you. If you're not sure how to summarise, the BBC Skillwise site, although not made for English learners, has some useful advice on this.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team


I am having problem doing the activity at the end of this interesting article, "xml config loading error" appears, please, somebody do the needful.

Best regards,

Hi Samim,

The page seems to working fine when I test it.  Can you give us some information about how you are accessing it, please?  Are you using a mobile device or a laptop/desktop computer?  Do you have problems with the activities on any other pages, or the videos on other pages?  If you can provide us with this information we may be able to help you.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, I think that this article is important. IT is really changing the world.

Information technology helped the information society to be born, but it is taking time to get it well connected. Information certainly means power, but just few people have the opportunity to get good information on time, besides that we have so many resources that most of the time they distract us when using them. I think also that information is getting shallow due to so many links and blogs to discuss... it's like we won´t need to read a book anymore for the available information on internet, BUT the information online is always changing. As I read somewhere on top, this definitely  has its PROs and CONs, because we can't control the flow of the information even though there are people who don´t care about it.

Yout Texts

Nguyen Manh Hung writes “I think this article is useful. We have all learned that Information Communication Technologies has been changing human life in the world incredibly. 50% or more of the population will have access to the Internet from their school, home and everywhere, and maybe in ten years time life on our planet will have unbelievable things. I think everything will change much more quickly than in the past.
However, to achieve the target of 50% of the population having access to the Internet, there are some barriers:  first, a lot of poor countries in Africa do not have enough money to develop their ICT infrastructure. And second, access to the store of information is not yet a priority for most people in rural areas in developing and poor countries.”

Phan Thi Nam Mai writes “I think there is no reason why we should not be optimistic about our information society at all. The Stone Age, the Bronze Age, the Steam Age, the Plastic Age, and so many more ages on our historic timeline reinforce the distinctive human capability to thrive upon our resources. We are always looking for better solutions to life. Information Technology is, after all, just one solution, placing itself in the human timeline of technological evolution.
Everything new and radical brings along pros and cons. That is a common rule with permanent existence. Of course, most of us will have already tired of weighing the two sides of an information society on the scales. Some of us might have favoured the benefits and deliberately put the cons down the deep hole. Some of us might be clinging on the other side of the scales to add weight to it; as well as pouring a bit of gloom into the possibility. I think the analysis has already been there. We are fully aware of what it brings and what it takes. Now, what we have to do is to accept that we are already moving towards an information society; that we have faced major problems; that we have tackled them and that we are willing to tackle them well.
Personally, I must say the Internet is a powerful tool of communication; a wealth of knowledge and a friend who is fun to be with. And "unfortunately", I am one who uses it quite often and I believe I am making good use of it. I can't see why it should not be developed and be shared among everyone on the planet. We will all become wiser; more discriminating in the information we receive and more internationally engaged. I may appear rather too optimistic. However, I merely look at the human history of evolution and say that human brains can undergo miraculous revamps as we are challenged by the "radicals" surrounding us. That is what makes us who we are today.
On the other hand, I must also admit that I have experienced what we call the "digital divide". I went abroad to study and resided at a boarding house. Internet access was only available for one hour a day with a limited number of computers. Trust me, those were the gloomiest days of my life. Every evening, there was a rushed dinner, followed by catfights for Internet booking and queue-jumping, or sometimes, just mere frustration. The world shrank into a tiny cell, barred behind the latest BBC news and British Council Learn English Online weekly magazine archives. I became the selfish, vain, flown-away girl in the eyes of old hometown fellows, leaving their emails unread for years. Nevertheless, I realised the fact that I was a boarding student, not a prisoner. I brought my own laptop, borrowed an Internet cable, and intelligently allocated convenient time slots in the computer lab. I returned to the information society in which I belonged, by my own refusal to let myself be shut away from it. I didn't want to be a mean Tom; so I shared my Internet cookies with the Jerrys in the boarding house.
In conclusion, I believe an information society is a dream coming true. However, it must be a universal dream, a universal calling and a universal willingness to close the gaps and weave the web."

Vera writes “Information technology is a good way of connecting people from all over the world. Of course, the planet has a different point of view and development in certain parts. But the basic idea is good. People will not lose their jobs just because of developing technology and information. New demands will appear in the future - things we could not imagine. Maybe a process of globalisation will make our planet more human. We will get new knowledge about people and cultures we don’t know, about their standard of living etc. If I eat something and know and see that somewhere on the planet somebody is starving, the question is “What will I do?” Time will show us, but not so fast.”

JVSudhakar writes “The developed nations must help the developing nations so that they also enjoy the newer technologies. All  people in this world have the right to share the resources.”