Rapid integration of information and communication technologies (ITCs) into professional and private lives are transforming many societies into information societies. An information society is built on technology, knowledge and intelligence. As its basis it facilitates fast, cheap, equitable, resource-efficient access to information and information services, accumulated knowledge, learning opportunities and cooperation support tools for its citizens. From a technical point of view, an information society enables the processing, storage and transmission of information in any form and without any significant spatial or temporal constraints.
ITC has the potential for making a positive contribution towards sustainability in the following ways: (1) dematerialization; (2) new concepts of mobility and exchange; (3) remote sensing and environmental monitoring; (4) public information services and universal access to services; (5) policy development and crisis management based on a broad consensus; (6) health services; (7) better opportunities for learning in all topics concerning the future of humanity; (8)empowerment of developing countries; (9) new opportunities in international cooperation. Areas of active application are traffic management, distance education, tele-shopping, telework, environmental management and information systems.
This information was sadly released only as an April Fools joke, but represents one "ideal" global communications system. The first worldwide connectivity network, FISH-NET, was launched on 1 April 1998. The Full Internet SHell (FISH) alliance used amateur rocket societies to launch its network of 1000 satellites in record time to cover the whole planet, for the total cost equivalent to one conventional launch at Cape Canaveral. Internet connectivity is now available anywhere in the world, at speeds more than 30 times the rate of the current fastest modem. The FISH-NET connectivity kit costs less than US$100, the result of a design requirement that the service had to be low-cost for everybody to use. FISH-NET is regarded by many as a huge step for economic development in underpriviledged countries; also for democracy and civil rights in countries with censorship and restrictions. years. It is another step towards true telecommunication de-regulation.
Frequently the implicit, but debatable, assumption is made that the evolution to an information society will automatically yield benefits such as enhanced democratic processes and an environmentally benign society. However, without deliberate policy choices and without new instruments and institutional changes, developments could go either way -- in either a positive or negative direction. The ultimate direction will depend on political choices made and on whether or not substantial changes can be achieved in individual and group behaviour patterns and in general ways of doing business.