Technology and human life cannot be separated. Society has a cyclical co-dependence on technology. We use and depend on technology in our daily lives and our needs and demands for it keep on rising. Humans use technology to travel, to communicate, to learn, to do business and to live in comfort. Technology is the application of scientific knowledge to the practical aims of human life or as it is sometimes phrased, to the change and manipulation of the human environment. It is the collection of techniques, skills, methods and processes used in the production of goods and services. Organisations rely on the use of technology. Organisations are entities comprising multiple people such as an institution or an association that has a particular purpose. The use of technology has impacted on the performance of business in Zimbabwe. The impact has been both positive and negative. The following essay shall discuss these advantages and disadvantages.
The comparison of what has been actually produced or performed with what can be achieved using the same resources such as time, money and labour is known as efficiency. Technology has improved operations for many Zimbabwean organisations as less time is being spent producing different products or providing a service. There are two types of efficiency that are recognised in different industries which are productive and allocation efficiency.
Production efficiency is measured by the number of outputs produced from given quantities of inputs. For there to be said there is efficiency the products should still be able to satisfy consumers and be of good quality. This is because production is known as the sharp of a business activity meaning that targets have to be met and standards kept. Technology has enabled businesses to increase productivity and even enabling them to increase their product lines. The introduction of faster conveyer belts and machines that helped with packaging enabled United Refineries Limited to widen their soap range to include image, vogue and fresh health joy bath soaps. They even managed to increase their product lines to include production of mayonnaise. Online shopping has helped increase productivity. This is because consumers can now access goods and services in the comfort of their homes and shop at anytime of the day. Citylink has an online booking service which facilitates convenience to the client. So instead of driving all the way from a client’s home to the business office in town or rushing to catch office hours customers will opt for a less cumbersome process of acquiring the service. Because the website is operational at all hours of the day sales are recorded at any time. Innscor has introduced door to door delivery service in certain radius. This means they can cater for their clients even when the customer is lazy to drive to their outlets.
Allocation efficiency refers to the state in which the output of production is as close as possible to the marginal cost. Technological advancement that is used at production processes of various goods increases the allocative efficiency. This gives society a more desired mix of goods and services. Consumers are willing to buy a new product rather than an older one only if the new one increases total utility obtained from the usage of the same quantity. This then means that high economic profit will be gained from the new product which in turn attracts resources away from the older less wanted by community to the production of the new item. In 2015 Newsday reported that Capri had launched a new refrigerator plant worth $12 million to increase the company’s output from 5,000 units per month to 18,000 units. It further explained that this would help them expand to the regional market as 20 – 30% would be for the local market whilst 70 – 80% would be for the regional market. Because of competition from brands such as Samsung and Defy the company had also upgraded its products to include Side by side and the Bar Fridge range.
Technology has become an integral part for any business as it has brought about ease in access to information. Employees are able to access information easily on platforms like the intranet and internet. Some information systems have been adopted by different organisations to share information across the board. Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) used to have a manual way of filing tax returns. If a client had any queries the revenue officer would have to go to their registry, request for the particular file of the client of which the files where registered under different tax heads meaning that if a client had Pay As You Earn, Income Tax and Sales Tax there would be three individual files for that client in different sections of the registry. After retrieving the needed file, the officer would go back and attend to the client. If the client would raise another query for a different tax head then he would go through the same process. However, with the installation of the Systems Application Program (SAP) a walk in client is served easily as the revenue officer just has to input the client’s business partner number and all accounts that the client is registered for and all payments that the client has made and all assessments that ZIMRA raised will be viewed without having to refer to the manual file at the registry. A well informed employee is satisfied with their work and confident in themselves.
Benefits of technology in the field of business includes better channels of communication and faster modes. The 21st century has seen the advent of mobile devices, internet, intranet and extranets. Organisation’s human resources can connect with each other at anytime and converse business related issues in real time to get things on track without waiting for hours. Examples include e-mails, skype, video conferencing. Technology also helps organisations communicate with their clients or potential clients. Most businesses have websites that detail what the organisation is all about, where it is coming from, where it is headed and what it offers. Other companies such as NMB bank have a chat line whereby if one logs on to their website an operator assists a client with additional information not provided for on the page. Ministry of Health continuously sends health alert messages on phones to alert the public of safety procedures when there are disease outbreaks.
Technology helps organisations with added security. Over and above human security providers, gadgets such as alarms assist in added security at workplaces. Safeguard offers one of the best alarms in Zimbabwe. Retail stores such as OK stores have added features such as CCTV. These are cameras placed in convenient places to monitor against theft. Other types of technologically savvy security systems include access tags. These help identify who has entered the building, at what time and when they leave. It can be programmed not to allow certain personnel in some areas. This can assist when there have been cases of fraud or theft by staff members. Hackers and thieves steal consumer and company information daily but technology can help in safeguarding it. Digital security is an added technological advantage. Security goes beyond firewall and anti-virus software. Digital security systems protect businesses from destruction and theft. The system not only provides real-time signals, but also provides an interference strategy, such as an alarm signal. In some systems, operators can remotely contact an intruder from remote locations and notify an attacker that a camera is turned on and can identify them.
Employees can use different business technologies to create innovative business ideas which can be used to grow and expand their organisations. Many companies create technological challenges then they reward employees who come up with creative solutions using technology. Such areas that need these ideas include architectural designs such as those employed on Joina City in Harare amongst many notable buildings. Employees can use internet technology to innovate ways of advertising and promoting a business online. Social networks like LinkedIn can be used by employees to socialise and interact with other creative employees from different organisations, this interaction will stimulate information exchange and also encourages brain storming on various work related issues. There are platforms such as Ownai which assist in buying and selling online. Technological innovation is therefore one of the key factors in a firm’s competitiveness.
Technology in the workplace has changed the way human resource managers are doing their job. It has improved processes of screening, recruiting and hiring new employees. Many human resource managers are using internet to advertise job openings through their organisations web pages unlike the traditional newspapers advertisements. Econet places vacancies on their web page and update it regularly. Targeted candidates will be in are able to apply for these positions online by submitting their resumes to the human resource manager. Old mutual provides a link for potential candidates to upload their resumes and if there is an opening they first look at the pool and only advertise for a position if they cannot find anyone suitable. The process saves time and it makes the human resource managers job easier. Before the advent of technology grade seven pupils were required to write application letters to different schools, wait for a response usually taking a long time. The Ministry of Education then introduced a system whereby candidates apply to their desired schools and as soon as the results are out the schools are given the task of looking through the results for their applicants and they accept or decline their applications. It has assisted schools from having hectic examinations in order to screen applicants. Technology can also be used to track performance and productivity of each employee at work. Once employees are aware that they are being monitored, their productivity will generally increase.
Technology has assisted in reducing human errors. In the accounting areas of business there are software in computers that help calculate for someone. One just has to ensure that they input the correct figures. At retail shops till operators now simply scan a barcode and the product and price are reflected. The total amount and tax is calculated at once making it easier for accountants to know the amount to remit to government for Value Added Tax(VAT). In the medical field technology has played a huge role in this area. Most hospitals have implemented modern technology in surgical rooms, and this has reduced mistakes made by doctors. X-ray machines, scanners, blood pressure and heart beat monitoring machines have been modernised to give more accurate images and readings. The machines have easy to read interfaces making it easy even for the patient to monitor on their own, equipment such as bp monitors and thermometers come to mind. Humans can easily make mistakes because of work overload and stress factors. Harare Hospital received ultrasound machines and foetal heartbeat detectors among the many state-of-the-art medical equipment distributed in 2015 by the then president Robert Gabriel Mugabe. Additionally, the development community has developed health apps that enable us to monitor our health, weight or fitness. These applications are used on mobile phones, so users have access anytime.
Organisations have a lot of transactions they conduct in a day. This means for smaller businesses it can become an expense to do day to day transactions like paying tax, paying water bills and even electricity bills. Technology has brought about ease of doing business. Accountants can pay bills, buy insurance, pay suppliers and even pay their tax obligations using online banking methods. Most banks in Zimbabwe provide this facility and many businesses are taking full advantage of it. For their accounting they just use the bank statements that can be also sent via email to do their bank reconciliations. The government tried to interface some ministries systems with the ZIMRA system at the borders. This was done to reduce waiting time for consignments entering and leaving Zimbabwe. When a clearing agent would submit the documentation for clearance, the different organisations with an interest in the product being cleared would be flagged. This would ensure that the state agencies conduct a joint inspection of the goods thereby making the clearing agent’s job easier. For organisations in the logistics industry technology has made their jobs easier. There are tracking devices that are placed in their fleets that enable the owner to know where their vehicles are. For some they can even monitor the speed and tell the driver to slow down or to manipulate the mechanics of the vehicles so that they do not exceed a certain speed.
Transport and communication technology has impacted positively on businesses in Zimbabwe. Internet plus more reliable transport has assisted in global growth for some organisations. In the 21st century it is easier to purchase goods as far as from China, Italy and Dubai amongst many other countries and sell the wares to those who cannot afford to shop from those countries. We have businesses like those operating from the Gulf Complex in Harare who sell various goods from all over the world. This is due to the ease of accessing the global market and shipping the goods via sea or air. Other businesses have managed to establish in foreign markets and still be linked to their businesses in Zimbabwe. One such businessman is Strive Masiiwa who has managed to penetrate the regional market with products such as Kwese TV. Whilst he is growing regionally he still maintains his Econet empire in Zimbabwe. All thanks to technology, he can be in two places at once.
Many breakthroughs have been assisted with technology. It is now easy to find information on experiences from all over the world due to search engines on the internet. Use of robots to perform tasks too dangerous or dirty for the human hands has aided organisations to have deeper research tapping into a world of technology. Companies dealing with specialised technology such as phone assembling, car manufacturing, food processing use computer aided design and drafting and computer aided manufacturing systems to perform their tasks. We have had medical breakthroughs such as the Ebola vaccination that was discovered in 2017. Other notable breakthroughs include the block chain crypto currency such as the Bitcoin. Block chain is defined as an incorruptible digital ledger of the economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value, Don & Alex Tapscott (2016). Technology has witnessed a publicly traded company that has over 12000 employees and contractors all over the world, with no office space and the entire business being run and operated from inside an online virtual world. In 2014 a motor mechanic designed a micro-light prototype aircraft. This indicates where our next technology lies for Zimbabwean organisations and the community.
According to the laws in Zimbabwe, with particular reference to the Customs and Excise Act, the Income Tax Act and the VAT Act, all persons carrying out business should keep their records for a minimum of six years. Failure to do as required by law constitutes an offence where one can be penalised and even prosecuted. With the number of transactions that a business carries out and the various documents that a company can accumulate, keeping records can be a cumbersome task. Paper takes up space, builds up dust and can become unclear over time. However, due to the advent of technology storing information is no longer a nightmare. Companies can use random access memory (RAM) as a temporary storage for data. Portable devices such as hard disks, flash drives, SD cards, CD’s and DVD’s and magnetic tape cartridges can also be used in addition to online cloud storage. Econet is said to use cloud storage amongst its various methods of storing data.
We have seen exciting impacts of technology on business entities in Zimbabwe. It is keeping them up – to – date, helping them overcome competition and inspiring innovations. Technology has become a part of daily routines such as managing inventory, keeping up with customer details and providing speedy communication channels both internally and externally among other things. However, technology has proved that it can be a source of loss of profits for an organisation.
Technology is constantly being improved, this requires constant and costly upgrading. And normally each upgrade requires employee training, thereby taking time away from production. The loss of productivity combined with costs of software and implementation can reduce overall profitability. Each upgrade may also lower morale as employees struggle to learn new applications and to meet new performance standards. Once a system upgrade is completed, ongoing maintenance fees add to the overall cost. Since a breakdown of a system can halt the production of an employee, a department, or an entire plant, the cost of technical support or maintenance contracts are no longer optional. Software may become obsolete thereby requiring new products to suit the needs of the organisation. Test runs are needed before a software has been adopted, this may take time whilst at the same time compromising the quality of products or services being offered. When ZIMRA Customs Department migrated from their old system of ASYCUDA++ to ASYCUDA World there was a huge delay in the clearance of goods through the borders. This negatively affected business organisations that were importing or exporting as well as consignments destined to neighbouring countries. This meant that on top of the cost of acquiring the new software revenue was also lost due to the delays experienced.
Because of the integral role that is being played by technology, people often become dependent on it. An organisation may fail to operate if its systems shutdown. During the period of internet shutdown bank processes such as Real Time Gross Settlements(RTGS) also temporarily shutdown. This was because of the link of the system to the internet. Other technological products such as calculators, computers make the users feel inadequate if they are not accessible to them. Such instances can be seen when there is a power outage and if that company does not have a backup such as a generator the business will lose sales until such a time as the electricity is back.
The whole reason for technological developments such as robots is to assist in areas where the human has failed. It could be speedy processing, accurate counting or placing of small items such as nails embedded in the screen of a phone. However, the use of specialized technology has seen a reduction in employment of human resources. When Automated Telling Machines(ATM) were introduced in banks it meant that tellers had to be reduced in banks. Most banks retrenched workers who could not be absorbed into other functions. The Daily news live on September 19, 2017 reported that Nestle Zimbabwe had embarked on a retrenchment exercise as part of the company’s business optimisation activities. The cluster manager for Nestle Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi informed the reporter that the right sizing exercise had been necessitated largely due to technological and systems upgrades.
Technology has introduced telephones, mobile phones, internet and intranet. Whilst these are good communication tools the price that has been paid is seen by the detachment of employees from one another. The role that social interaction brings is the development of interpersonal skills. Phone calls and emails cause distractions. The ZIMRA client charter provides that a telephone call should be picked up within three rings. This is despite the fact that the recipient is serving a walk in client. When one is being served at the information desk at NMB when the telephone rings the client in the bank at that desk is put on hold whilst the front desk officer attends to the client on the phone. This usually frustrates the client in the bank as they probably would have been waiting in a queue in order to be served. At times due to reduced interpersonal skills the serving officer forgets to excuse themselves in order to attend to the phone client. Ethics in the work place may be violated. An employee may decide to surf the net during office hours thereby reducing productivity. Some people cannot function without going on social media applications such as Facebook and WhatsApp all this being done during the employer’s time.
The prevalence of technology invites the risk of cybercrime. A McAfee sponsored study released statistics that businesses worldwide lost nearly $400 billion annually due to hacking incidents, intellectual property thefts, credit card thefts and other computer crimes. The results were published in June 2014. The Chronicle of June 22, 2017 published an article alleging that The National University of Science and Technology (NUST) and Harare Institute of Technology (HIT) had suffered cyber attacks on June 21, 2017. The hackers were said to have demanded $6 billion to restore information to their websites. Businesses have to spend resources not only for securing their systems as a precautionary measure, but also for recovery in the aftermath of a cybercrime.[image: ] Comment by Guest User: NUST portal during hacking process
It is said that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. At times this rings true for many workers. Technology causes some staff to feel demotivated as they fail to grasp the latest trends in the business world. When an employee does not understand the software they are using they tend to find other ways of compensating for it such as absenteeism. They may be rude to clients who come making enquiries that are linked to the new systems. They become frustrated thereby making the organisation an undesirable place to visit. Business can be lost.
Technology has good sides and bad sides. The advantages include efficiency in production leading to increased productivity, access to information, effective communication, increased security, innovation and creativity, improved human resource management, reduced human errors, ease of doing business, globalisation, advanced research methods and better storage for information. The disadvantages are that it is expensive, increases dependency syndrome, it replaces human resources, distractions due to social networking, cyber attacks and promotes demotivation in workers. From the foregoing, it is evident that the benefits of technology outweigh the disadvantages. As a Shona saying implies that better results are achieved through networking and working with others, technology has brought about development in the way Zimbabweans conduct business and there is still more to be improved as we are lagging behind.
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