The "Man of the Year" in 1982 according to a survey carried out by an international magazine was the 'Computer'. Computer in Latin means "to reckon" or 'to compute'. Some experts have coined a word for it 'INFORMATIC', the science of information processing i.e. methods of recording, manipulation and retrieving information. So it is a calculating device with some special characteristics and abilities like—perform complex and repetitive calculations rapidly and accurately, make decisions and automatically correct or modify by providing signals, certain parameters of a system under control, converse with users through terminals etc.
As we hurtle towards the 21st century, we must accept the inevitability of a computer revolution in the near future. It is an-inseparable part of development, as demonstrated by other countries. Computers are no longer luxury or the sole property of the advanced countries. Their appropriate uses in India can help us solve the unique problems of a developing country and bring about the desired changes in increasing literacy, optimizing resources, increasing efficiency, productivity and quality.
Already computers have become such an important part of our lives—in airports, banks, railway stations and every well-equipped modern office. As computer continues to proliferate in ever increasing numbers across large segments of Government, business and industry, the common man is beginning to believe hesitantly that computers can actually deliver a good part of the promise that they had offered. Society is gradually accepting the fact that computers will indeed change the manner in which the things are done,
Computers can substantially save valuable man-hours by helping people through communication to make reservation of tickets, operate their bank accounts, to pay for electricity water and telephone bills, insurance premium and also do routine shopping. Trains can be operated automatically by computers and traffic signals be computer co-ordinate to produce best traffic patterns, increase reliability and safety and generally provide for more efficient services.
The basic industry of India is 'agriculture'. In areas of agriculture and irrigation, computers are making possible better matching of soil characteristics and crop. This coupled with better use of resources like water, fertilizers and sunlight and more precise prediction of monsoons can help India in increasing crop yields manifold.
Computer in health is bringing new hope for the sick. In areas of health and medicine, expert systems and data bases on blood groups availability, eye banks medical history of patients etc, can bring about a marked improvement in our health services. Expert system can help in more accurate diagnosis of ailments 'Hospital Information Systems' can help improve the efficiency of our hospitals reduce mortality and death-rates and in general provide better and speedier health care to our people.
While this realization is gaining firmer ground in areas like the utility services, railways, airlines, agriculture, health etc., as well as organization control, there is area where the role of computers as the prime agents of change has still not been recognized. That is the area of education. In our country there are over 5,00,000 primary schools of which l/3rd are single-teacher schools. 64% of total population of our country is illiterate. The number of illiterates at present is higher than that at independence. To tackle a problem of such gigantic proportions, it is essential that a modern aids offered by Information Technology are made use of to spread education to the rural areas where most of the illiteracy is concentrated. Computer based lessons developed in various subjects by experts in that area could be used to educate the masses. The computer is a rapidly evolving tool that can now deal quite effectively with all fine forms of information that man deals with for better education are —data, text, image, graphics and voice.
One thought can take place in our minds for a moment that 'the computer will replace the teacher—that would be a suicidal thought. But we should fully accept the reality that the computer will radically change the manner in which teaching-learning processes take place. The role of the teacher will undergo a radical change. From being a mere "information dumping machine", the teacher will once again rise to the height of being a mentor, philosopher and guide developing, instilling values, ideas, creating challenges and nurturing feelings, sentiments and empathy in young minds. In the wider prospective, these are what are required for building a strong nation—intellectually spiritually and economically.
In the most important area of government administration, to enable administration take the right decision at the right time, accurate, relevant and up-to-date information should be made available to them. Modern computerized communication network can significantly help bureaucracy cut its red tape.
Therefore, computers are synonymous with development. With appropriate computer usage and quality of life applications, India will be able to effectively tackle its unique problems. The entire society will undergo a transformation and what would emerge is a society that is more intellectually aware and which values its time, intellect and dignity. A society armed with computer expertise can meet with confidence the exciting new India of tomorrow.