In many societies today, evidence exists of an increase in information that has opened a floodgate of knowledge, thereby putting a dent into human ignorance and significantly changing various aspects of life including education, communication, business and societal living. It is this prevalence of information that has led to the birth of what theoreticians refer to as the ‘information society’.
It is not known exactly when the information society came into being, but it is believed that originated in Japan in 1964 according to (Duff, 1996 p. 119). Moreover, (Martin, 1995 p. 2) also notes that Masuda, one of its founders came to the realization that “the making of information values became the formative force for the development of society.” This new society also conceptualized in the mind of the economist, Fritz Machlup, who studied the role of knowledge in American societies. He felt especially concerned about how certain practices restricted competition, particularly, the patent system. He observed the cost of the patent system in contrast to its benefits, and consequently, was forced to inquire into the educational system. He investigated how the United States, as a nation, produced knowledge. His inquiry led him not only to investigate scientific and technical information, but all schooling, elementary though graduate education. He was able to distinguish five division of the knowledge sector and, as a consequence, calculated that in 1959 twenty-nine percent (29%) of the Gross National Product (GNP) in the United States of America had been produced in knowledge industries.
Other proponents of the concept include Peter Drucker who has argued that there is a transition from an economy based on material goods to one based on knowledge. Yet another line of argument is that of Daniel Bell who pointed out that the number of employees producing services and information is an indicator for the informational character of a society. He adds further that in such a society, what counts is not raw muscle power or energy, but information. In addition, Jean-Francois Lyotard contends that “Knowledge has become the principle force of production over the last few decades.” To add to this list of proponents’ points of view is a claim made by the former Minister of Tourism in Antigua & Barbuda, Honorable Harold Lovell, who said that, “We have long drifted away from the days when the livelihood of society depended largely on the cultivation of food crops to one in which information and services take priority.” What then is the information society?
There is no universally accepted definition of the concept of information society; as it is conceptualized differently by various writers. For example, in the article “Introduction: Information Society Studies” Frank Webster writes that the information society is seen by its advocates to be as different from Industrialism as the Industrial Society was from its predecessor, the Agricultural Society. He expatiates by saying that from that perspective, people in the industrial era made their living by the sweat of their brow, dexterity of their hands, by working in factories to manufacture products. In contrast, in the information society, “Livelihoods are increasingly made by the appliance and manipulation of information, be it software design, branding, or financial services, and the output is not so much a tangible thing as a change in image, relationship or perception.” However, despite this view, some uncertainty still exists as to its definition as it is yet to be determined if the concept is evolutionary or revolutionary. However, for the purpose of this paper, the following definition will be used:
“A society characterized by a high level of information intensity in the everyday life of most of its citizens, in most organizations and workplaces, by the use of common or compatible technology for a wide range of personal, social, educational and business activities,...