Business, Information Technology and Society

Business, Information Technology and Society is an introduction to the impact of modern information technology on business and society designed for readers little or no academic background in the subject.

It includes an introduction to modern digital information and communication technologies, but concentrates on the way they are used by businesses and the way society is being changed by their employment.

As the book concentrates on basic principles and the social impact of the technology it remains surprisingly relevant more than twenty years after publication.It still sells a surprising number of copies each year, mainly in the USA. Perhaps because it maps out an agenda of topics which are well worth pursuing.

(However it failed to anticipate the contemporary importance of Artificial Intelligence, smart phones and social media such as Facebook. My oldest son Paul Tansey, Managing Director of the Intergage Group, now gives excellent presentations on such more recent developments! Some available on-line.)

Anyone looking for a more up-to-date work addressing some of the same issues (albeit in a more radical way) is advised to look at Shoshana Zuboff's The Age of Surveillance Capitalism published in 2019 by Profile Books in the UK and Public Affairs in the USA.

Publication Details

Published by Routledge in Autumn 2002 with contributions by Geoffrey Darnton and the late John Wateridge

ISBN: 0-415-19213-7 (Paperback) 0-415-19212-9 (Hardback) 978-0-203-45467-1 (e-book)

Current Price: £ 53.99 (Paperback) £ 165 (Hardback) ! (ebook can be rented).

Pages: xix + 252

Obtainable from all good booksellers. Note: if buying secondhand (usually a lot cheaper), ignore publication date - there is only one edition,  now printed on demand.

Outline Contents

PART I: The Environment of Computing

1 The Environment of Computing: A Systems Approach
2. The IT Industry and the Information Economy
3. Government, Globalization, and Information Technology
4. Regulating Computing


5. Organisations & IT
6. Jobs & IT


7. IT and Society: The Need for Choice


This book is primarily intended as an undergraduate text that introduces students to the enormous impact of modern information technology on business. It presupposes no previous study of information technology or of business. Although written from a British perspective it emphasises the world-wide impact of the trends described and draws upon examples from the USA, Europe, Japan and the Newly Industrialised Countries of the Pacific rim.

The theme of this book is that the way in which computing technology develops and is applied is the result of social decision-making. There is a need to take conscious choices both within organisations and in society as a whole using the technology to ensure that it is used to serve the strategy of the organisation concerned and the public interest.

The book focuses upon the use of information technology in organisations of all kinds - including manufacturing, services, the public sector and not-for-profit organisations - and the way this is constrained by the wider society within which such organisations operate.

Modern Information Technology (IT) is understood in this book to be the result of a convergence between modern digital computing and communication technologies. The importance of IT is as the core of an 'Information System' which consists of a series of interactions between people, data, hardware and software, organisations and their social environment.

Information and its associated technologies are now so vital to business success that information is frequently regarded as an independent factor of production on a par with capital, land and labour. In the twenty-first century every business manager must understand the role which information technology plays, not only in their organisation but also in the wider society, within which their organisation must compete.

A full understanding of information technology is impossible without considering its interaction with the social world in which it has developed. Computer professionals who are unaware of the social, political, and economic political dimension of their work are doomed to be the pawns of 'decision makers' who are.

In the real world a frequent cause of the failure of IT projects is a neglect of the human (including managerial and organisational) factors at work. No business or computing professional can, therefore, ignore the 'softer' elements in Information Systems, which paradoxically, often prove the hardest to get right!



Detailed Contents of Business, Information Technology and Society





Business and Information Technology
Information Systems
Systems Thinking
Systems Analysis
Technical Systems: Hardware & Software
Social Systems
Technology and Social Systems

This chapter has three main themes. First, the nature of modern information technology (IT) and its impact on modern business. Next, the idea of how thinking in terms of systems of different sorts helps us to understand the nature of IT and its impact on society. Finally we focus upon theme of technology change and IT management.

For less technical readers the section on Technical Systems gives a brief explanation of how hardware and software systems operate and interrelate.


A Complex Industry
The Global Information Matrix
The Economy and the IT Industry
Information Economics
Defining the Information Economy
The Information Economy: A New Industrial Revolution?
IT & Employment

This chapter considers the nature the IT industry today including the role of producers of hardware (computing and telecommunications) and software, publishers of information, retailers and consultants. This discussion is illustrated by a number of case studies of different IT firms mostly in the words of the organisations themselves.

The chapter introduces the importance of two kinds of complex global networks. The first is the physical network of electronic communications which links computer systems across the world and enable multi-media connections between people and organisations of all sorts. The growth of this network is considered here, the social and political implications of this development are considered further in later chapters. The second is an economic network or global marketplace. The global IT industry has contributed to the first and is a part of the second. We consider the role of multinational industries and the interdependence between information technology in more detail in the next chapter.

Finally this chapter considers the importance of information technology in contemporary society as a whole - examining the idea that information and its technology is the dominating characteristic of the age. We examine in more detail the nature of the 'Information Economy' and its implications for levels of employment.


Government and the Economy
The Role of Government in Relation to IT
National and Regional Approaches to IT
Globalization, Information Technology and Government

Here we consider the issue of how far government does, and should, affect the use and development of information technology. The role of giant international firms in IT, such as IBM, Microsoft and Toshiba, will be considered as well as the dependency of other major international players (from CocaCola to NATO) on IT and global networks. Finally we consider how far the use of information technology by multinational enterprises can be regulated by national governments.


Computers and Privacy
Standards in IT
Intellectual Property
Organisational Rules
Governing the Internet
Legal Regulation and Computer Abuse


This chapter is concerned with the need for rules about the use of computers and who should enforce them. This involves a consideration of the need to protect individuals against the abuse of IT by governments, multinationals and other firms and individuals. We discuss the need to protect intellectual property (including copyright, patents, trade marks, design right etc) in a global information economy and the (opposing?) case for freedom of discussion and innovation. This leads to an analysis of how organisations should manage their data, software and other intellectual property. Finally we consider the role of government regulation and self-regulation, especially on the Internet.




Organisations and IT
Competitive Advantage and IT
Information Strategies
Managing IT Projects
The Future of Organisations and IT

Computers have grown in importance within modern organisations from an obscure back-room tool to a dominating feature of the whole organisation. In this chapter we consider the ways in which information technology is managed; the central role its use now plays in enabling organisations to compete in the market place (or perform a socially useful role in the case of non-profit organisations); how the planning of IT has become central to the strategy of the whole organisation and often has led to its total re-organisation. The consequences of this are explored in an analysis of the political forces unleashed within organisations by such changes and of the likely transformation in the nature of organisations and the role of managers as a consequence of IT.


Computers and the Quality of Jobs.
Ergonomics & IT.
Designing Jobs with IT
Industrial Relations and IT
Gender & IT
Management Skills and IT
Managing Information Technology Change

We saw in Chapter 2 that it is too easily assumed that the adoption of IT must lead to job losses - the reality is shown to be much more complex. In this chapter we focus upon how the quality rather than the quantity of jobs is affected by IT. The nature of jobs with an IT content is shown to depend as much upon management attitudes to technology and human relations as upon any inherent tendency to 'de-skilling' or 'empowerment'.

Some specific human relation issues illustrate the scope for managerial choice in managing IT including the implementation of teleworking within organisations, relations with the work-force, issues relation to gender and race. Finally we consider in more detail the impact which IT has on the jobs of managers themselves including the possible creation of 'virtual organsations' with the dissolution of corporate life as we know it.



The Social Implications of an Information Society.
Leisure and the Home
Education and IT
Culture and Cyberspace
IT and Divisions in Society
Communities and IT
The Environment and IT
Democracy, Government & IT
Information Technology in a Democratic Society

The development of technology is difficult to predict - but how it will be used and what the impact of it will be on society is almost impossible to forecast. As we have seen, it is easy to assume over-optimistically that the most desirable possible scenario will inevitably come about. In the absence of government intervention, the most likely outcome is that market forces will largely determine the use society makes of IT and the impact IT has on society. Inevitably, on this basis, there will be a tendency for the most affluent societies (such as the United States) and the most affluent members of societies (the prosperous and the powerful) to make most use of the technology for their own benefit. Under the impact of market forces such changes - responding to individual consumer demand fostered by profit-maximising multinational corporations - may have unanticipated effects which affect society as a whole and may cost it dear in terms of environmental effects or the impact on social stability. This chapter attempts to consider some possible effects of this sort and the extent to which they can and should be controlled by government on behalf of the community as a whole in a democratic society.

In the twentyfirst century it is clear that these problems will not be containable within national boundaries - given the impact of a global economy and global communication networks - so that any action required will inevitably have an international aspect if it is to be effective.


On-line Resources




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"Politics, Political Theory, Political Philosophy" Thinking Philosophy (U3A Philosophy Network), Summer 2010, 11-14