What is information technology or IT?

Information technology, or IT, is an umbrella term for computer systems and networks and their development, maintenance, and use. The term covers processing and distribution of data. The data includes facts, statistics, and other information that users wish to store or analyze.

IT stands for Information Technology - image 49939929
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On its own, the word technology means the practical application of scientific knowledge.

Nature.com defines information technology as the:

Design and implementation of computer networks for data processing and communication.”

The science research website focusses its definition on hardware and software. Hardware is all the physical parts of a computer. Examples of these components include the processor, keyboard, screen, and memory.

Software is what makes computers work. It holds the codes and instructions that operate the hardware.

Other sources extend the definition of information technology beyond hardware and software.

Techieword.com, for instance, includes the Internet, as well as computer hardware and software, in its definition.

Wikepedia.com goes even further – it includes telephones and televisions, because these devices also process and distribute data (information).

The Online Etymology Dictionary says that the term first emerged in the English language in a 1958 Harvard Business Review article by Harold J. Leavitt and Thomas L. Whisler. The authors speculated about the future impact of the new technology on the management of organizations.


IT and computer science

Information technology is not the same as computer science. Although the terms overlap, they also have distinct differences.

Computer science focuses on making computers efficient. Computer scientists study and apply mathematics, programming, graphics, and artificial intelligence. They create new knowhow in the field of computing.

Information technology is more about using the knowhow in a practical way. It focuses on developing, installing, using, and maintaining computers, networks, and databases.

A look at career opportunities in the two fields also highlights the differences between IT and computer science. Computer Science Degree Hub describes the difference in an FAQ webpage.

“IT professionals typically work in a business environment installing internal networks and computer systems and perhaps programming,” according to the online computer science career guide.

“Computer scientists,” they add, “work in a wider range of environments, ranging from businesses to universities to video game design companies.”

Video – Information technology