Role of Information Technology in Environment and Human Health

Role of Information Technology in Environment and Human Health

The role of information technology in the environment and human health is significant and multilayered. At the dawn of the 21st century, information technology is playing the most eminent role in fields like business, economics, environment, politics, education, healthcare, culture, etc. Implementation of emerging information technology has developed infrastructure in the fields of the environment and health sector and has transformed our society in different dimensions.

What is Information Technology?

Information technology is a study of a system comprised of computers and telecommunications loaded with software to store, retrieve and utilise information.
An information technology system operates on information stored in computer systems, in a combination of hardware, software and various peripheral devices to input or output required information. All pieces of information are stored in a database for access.

What is Database?

A database is an organized structure in an information technology system to store or collect pieces of information. The process of collecting and storing the pieces of information is generally called the Database Management System (DBMS)

 

Role of Information Technology in Environment

Information Technology has brought a revolution in the fields of environmental as well as human health. It enables us to keep records and sustain essential developments in these fields. Nowadays the role of information technology in environment is significant, let’s explore it.

National Management Information System (NMIS)

The National Management Information System (NMIS) was developed by the Department of Science and Technology. This system has compiled and maintains a database on Research & Development (R&D) projects. It keeps the record up-to-date in the database of the developments for research purposes.

Environmental Information System (ENVIS)

The Ministry of Environment and Forests initiated the Environmental Information System (ENVIS) in 1982 assuming the importance of the environment. The ENVIS was developed to provide environmental information to scientists, engineers, decision-makers, policy planners, researchers in India. The environment is multi-disciplinary with a very broad range. ENVIS is a comprehensive information system that involves concerned institutions or organizations actively engaged in different subject areas of the environment. The Government of India has launched ENVIS centres. They work in several areas like pollution control, coastal ecology, biodiversity, renewable energy, environmental management, different Covid-19 affected areas, remote sensing, clean technologies and so on.

Satellite Technology

A satellite is an artificial object in space that orbits around the earth to collect and detect various data to provide modern conveniences and broadcast.

Satellites are the best sources of data for climate change research. Satellites monitor ocean temperatures and prevailing currents; data collected by satellite-borne radars are also able to show the alarming rise of sea levels, which have been rising by three mm a year over the last decade. Imaging satellites are programmed and equipped to measure the changing sizes of glaciers, which is difficult to do from the ground due to the remoteness and darkness of the polar regions. Satellites are able to determine the long-term patterns of rainfall, animal habitat, vegetation cover, and emissions of greenhouse gases.

sea-surface temperatures
A simulation of sea-surface temperatures from the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.

Researchers around the globe study the ocean using satellite technology. Data collected by satellites tell about the sea surface temperature, ocean colour, coral reefs, and ice, minerals distribution at the ocean floor. Scientists also use data collection systems on satellites to measure tidal heights and the migration of whales.

Geographical Information System (GIS)

Geographical Information System (GIS) is an information technology tool to map and analyze various featured events on the Earth based on satellite images.

Geographic Information System (GIS)
Geographic Information System (GIS)

Geographical Information System (GIS) manages a common database comprised of location-based information and analyzes various statistics like information on vegetation, waterlogging, deforestation, forest lands, population density, soil types, road networks and so many other information related to the physical world. It creates different thematic maps based on these pieces of information. The GIS can also measure atmospheric phenomena, depletion in the ozone layer, underground oil reserves, etc.

World Wide Web (WWW)

The World Wide Web (WWW) is known as the Web, is an information system where resources are available in various forms like documents, video or audio format and the pieces of information can be identified by Uniform Resource Locators (URL) which are accessible over the Internet. The various forms of resources of the Web are transferred via the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and these resources are accessed by the users by a software application called a web browser, and are published by a software application called a web server. It should be noted that the World Wide Web is not equal to the Internet. The World Wide Web or web is the web pages we see when we use web browsers but But the internet is the network of connected computers that the web works on, as well as what emails and files travel across.

The World Wide Web (WWW) is thus a useful source for studies for the students, teachers and researchers.

We have discussed the positive impacts of information technology in the environment, but we have to accept the other side too. Let’s see how information technology harms the environment.

The negative impact of information technology on the environment

The generation of e-waste is one of the significant hazards created in the era of information technology. We are living in the time of the data revolution where data is cheap and so as the devices, which eventually prompts massive e-waste and plastic dump generation. The rapid pace at which technology advances today, along with the growing consumer demand eventually give rise to the world’s fastest-growing waste stream. This is an extreme negative consequence that can not be destroyed easily. E-waste and plastics are non-degradable.

Do You Know?

  • Only 12.5% of e-waste is currently recycled
  • 20 to 50 million metric tons of e-waste are disposed of worldwide every year.
  • It takes 48 lbs of chemicals, 530 lbs of fossil fuel and 1.5 tons of water to manufacture one computer and monitor.
  • Electronic items that are considered to be hazardous include televisions and computer monitors that contain cathode ray tubes, LCD desktop monitors, LCD televisions, Plasma televisions, Portable DVD players with LCD screens.

Hence we learned how multilayered the role of it in environment is.

Role of Information Technology in Human Health

The Information Technology System is bound to collect and process information for the welfare of human beings. We, humans, are an integral part of the environment. Implementation of information technology in human health carries equal importance as the environment. Information technology makes way for a wide range of healthcare facilities. Let’s learn the role of information technology in health.

Electronic Health Records (EHR)

Electronic Health Records (EHR) is the information storage system of the patient’s health. It collects data regarding one’s health and makes it accessible only to the doctor. Thus, it values and saves time for both the patient and the doctor as well. It creates a database based on the patient’s medical history, health diagnosis, and information on the medication process in the past. It increases the medical safety of the patient by reducing medical errors.

Personal Health Records (PHR)

Personal Health Records (PHR) is almost the same as Electronic Health Records. One can access one’s health records in Personal Health Records. PHR helps one to monitor calorie intake, calorie burn, daily exercise, blood pressure, etc.

Electronic Prescribing

Electronic Prescribing enables one’s phone or computer to medicate oneself. It can prescribe necessary medicines based on the evaluation of one’s health and the collected information in one’s computer or phone. Electronic Prescribing has made use of Electronic Health Records meaningful.

Genome Sequencing

The genome is defined as the set of biochemical instructions that are passed from one generation to the next through reproduction. This set of instructions define the molecules and their interactions in between.

The major portion of the instructions consists of the molecules of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) that each individual inherits from their parents. The basic way through which the pieces of information are encoded in DNA molecules is through the order of the four constituent deoxyribonucleotides i.e Adenine, Thymine, Guanine and Cytosine in each DNA molecule. 

Genome sequencing is figuring out the order of DNA nucleotides, or bases, in a genome—the order of As, Cs, Gs, and Ts that make up an organism’s DNA. The human genome is made up of over 3 billion of these genetic letters.

Genome sequencing is extremely useful in detecting newborn and pediatric diseases, drug trials and pharmacogenomics, detecting rare tumour types etc.

Preservation of DNA Database

Liquid nitrogen is used to preserve DNA over the course of decades, whereas storage at -20 °C and -80 °C can prevent degradation for months or years. DNA is usually stored as a precipitate in ethanol, at -80 °C to prevent degradation by chemical and enzymatic processes.

Preservation of an individual’s DNA makes sure that the genetic material remains available for future genetic testing if required. At the laboratory, the DNA is extracted from the cell, then purified, concentrated and preserved for long term storage at room temperature. 

DNA Preservation is extremely useful for forensics, ancestry tracking, medical tests, genetic engineering, vaccines manufacturing, research of hormones, paternity tests etc

Biotechnology

Biotechnology is a branch of biology that deals with the cellular and biomolecular processes to develop technologies and products to improve our lives and the inclusive health of our planet.

Modern biotechnology has given us breakthrough products and technologies to combat debilitating and rare diseases, reduce our environmental footprint, use less and cleaner energy, and also direct us to have safer, cleaner and more efficient industrial manufacturing processes.

The negative impact of information technology on human health

The massive growth of the information technology sector gives rise to data burst over the social media networks, that categorically keeps millions glued to their electronic devices. It should be noted that multiple research studies have found a direct link between heavy social media and an increased risk for depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, and even suicidal thoughts. Day by day the cases of mental illness is growing among people rapidly.

Conclusion

We are heading towards sustainability challenges in the upcoming years due to the excessive use of technology.  Deforestation, flood, drought, cyclones and many more natural calamities are growing day by day. We have to maintain the balance of nature to save humanity. We have to take responsibility at our individual levels also. Individuals must adopt pro-environmental behaviours. Information technology, biotechnology has given us a divine sight. But right now we need urgent action to address the limitless use of technology and accept the societal importance of controlled usage of technology to shift towards a more environmentally sustainable future.

In this article, we have learned about two topics i.e the role of information technology in the environment and the role of information technology in human health.

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