Information society refers to a society where cultural, social and political life centers around the production and distribution of information through information technology networks. The rapid transmission, receipt and exchange of information by digital means globally, irrespective of distance, is a dominant feature of this society.
Originally, the United States, Japan and various Western European countries were classified as the information society, but the information society has increased as advances in intercommunication and technology expand. The term information society is used in a broad context across the media and in scholarly journals. While a specific definition is seldom used in these texts, the common ground is an understanding that information and, by extension, the gathering and interchange of that information are the most significant factors.
The information age and the society that has emerged as a result of the information age are inextricably linked to the field of information technology (IT). The rapid developments taking place in IT have had a major impact on the social, economic and political facets of society, producing immense benefits, as well as challenges (including information overload, privacy and security issues).
Important information technologies include computers and telecommunication system networks. Computers and telecommunication services have progressed to such an extent that possession of such equipment and services is now taken as a given in most areas and across most groups.
The International Telecommunications Union is considered the centerpoint for all activities related to intercommunication, including traditional telecommunications services as well as up-to-date virtual networks. As the information and communications technologies expand, the union gives assistance on a wide range of issues related to these technologies. Its scope includes the private sector, as well as corporate and government bodies.
The viability of the information society rests greatly on the ability and means for people to connect across considerable divides, including geographical distances or economic differences, as well as gaps pertaining to information and knowledge among communicating parties. The bridging of these divides and distances brings the idea of an information society closer together. The potential to share information is a unifying factor within the society and serves to foster a deeper integration based on access to and exchange of knowledge.
Information Communication Technology (ICT) has further facilitated the practical concept of accessibility, including people with disabilities. The idea of an information society is cohesive, where every member is able to receive information and knowledge and communicate with others in the society.
A combination of technological and telecommunication advances has enabled interactions to take place via a range of systems. These include video links, artificial satellites, fiber optics, computerized switching and other digital mechanisms.
In 1981, The Information Society (TIS): An International Journal was created. The journal provides a forum for scholars to present studies relating to information technologies and their impact on society and culture.
The effect of information technology on the personal and home life of people within the information society is prevalent. The influence extends further into areas of business, education and broader communities and organizations. Moreover, the workings of the information society are seen to have a profound association with economic structures.
Wilson Dizard, writing in 1984 in The Coming Information Age: An Overview of Technology, Economics, and Politics, was concerned with the information society involving "communication networks and information machines." He proposed that an information society develops via a threefold process. The first stage comprises the technological infrastructure. This is established by large organizations as well as small innovative companies. Dizard's second stage is a follow-on, when all segments of the economy and the government depend entirely on the information technology and communication networks in order to function. He determines the final stage as a "mass consumerization of information technologies and services." It is this that enables access to the information that the information society requires.
The virtual world of cyberspace has connected people across all walks of life, from individuals to companies and countries, in a community or society that has as its shared interest the acquisition and sharing of information. The society and its interwoven links with technology and telecommunications have given rise to new systems such as e-commerce, e-publishing and e-communication. Networking across global markets has become key to the information society's new way of working and communicating in an era of globalization. There are no boundaries, and everything, including knowledge and the access to it, is forever changing in the rapidly advancing information and information technology age.