The development of a global information society embraces many areas of human life. It does not only mean the development of information and telecommunication technologies. The important part of these transformations are the changes in the situation of an individual who uses such technology.
In times such as these, when the skill of working with a computer is almost as important as the skill of writing, lack of basic knowledge of computer science should be treated almost as a kind of illiteracy. The base of the development of the global information society is making the society realize the necessity of taking advantage of information technologies and creating skills to be able to use these technologies. It is compatible with a “life-long learning” philosophy that is promoted nowadays in the world, and means the necessity of the constant improvement of knowledge. It is necessary for humans to be able to adapt to the variable conditions of the environment. The problems presented in this article are described using Polish examples, but are characteristic of most developing countries.
It is necessary to begin education about information technologies in primary school and continue it in later education. The process of education has to cover both the basic skills of equipment and software usage and how to take advantage of computer science in professional work. It is evident that at present companies trying to adapt to the requirements of a global information society, have to fill the educational gap existing in the sphere of information and telecommunication technologies. It has become necessary to provide education programs for employees which enable them to use the information technology in the company. To achieve this goal, companies very often, at first, have to educate their employees on a basic level to supplement the shortage caused by poor or no education about computer science in school.
A major obstacle to efficient education is the fact that computers and the internet are not accessible to all people. Most of this is due to the prices of hardware and telecommunication services, which are not acceptable for many poor people and are also a barrier for schools and universities. A considerable discrepancy connected with the level of computer science knowledge between cities and small towns is clear. This discrepancy is not only the result of differences in the level of education, but also of the lack of information and telecommunication infrastructure in rural areas.
The essential issue is to assure free access to information. That especially concerns the poor people, who cannot afford a computer. The possession of information should not be possible only for richer social groups because this may lead to a polarized society. State administration institutions are especially responsible for the assurance of free access to information. It is necessary, for instance, to locate computer terminals in public places such as offices, libraries, schools etc.
Modern technologies can also efficiently support the education process itself. The use of educational software and access to the internet are especially helpful. Interactive and multimedia software improves the learning process and strengthens its results. To take advantage of these things, it is necessary to equip schools and educational centers with proper hardware and software. The other possibility created by the development of technology is distance learning – possible to use both in professional training and as well in schools on all educational levels. Such a solution makes learning possible for handicapped persons or for persons who, because of various reasons, cannot leave their place of residence for a long time, for instance mothers raising children. The development of computerized education also includes digital libraries and electronic networks, connecting universities and research centers in order to exchange knowledge and experiences.
Another important problem is the fact that only a small percentage of Polish teachers are prepared to use computer science in teaching. It means that only few teachers possess specialized education or have graduated from the proper courses. In a global information society this percentage should be considerably higher.
Nowadays the level of information science education in Poland is not satisfactory. Only a few schools possess professionally equipped computer workshops, where students can become acquainted both with the basics of computer science and as well with its applications. In the course of the last few years, the considerable progress in the computerization of schools has occurred, but is not yet sufficient. The worse situation concerns the usage of telecommunication technologies. The problem refers especially to primary and secondary schools, where most students finish their education. Also companies very reluctantly spend money on educational trainings and courses for their employees. Very often managers judge it to be an unnecessary expense.
The answer to the above mentioned problems should be the creation of a nationwide program for the development of information science education. The first signs of such activities have already appeared. However, it seems that now the plans are only wishes and one will have to wait for concrete activities for a long time. One of the crucial reasons is the fact that activities to build a system of computer science education have to be supported with considerable financial expenditures which must originate first of all from a state budget.