INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY (ICT)-BASED OFFICE SKILLS REQUIRED BY SECRETARIES FOR EFFECTIVE ADMINISTRATION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENTS IN ABIA STATE

0
129

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background of the Study

The introduction of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is promoting efficiency in all areas of human activities.  Individuals, groups and governments all over the world are taking the advantage of this opportunity to transform the activities of various sectors through the development of new skills. Information and Communication Technology has been identified as a major factor for effective service delivery in public sector, including the local governments. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has changed the face of offices and consequently made business environments to wear a new look. This is particularly noticeable in the area of office administration and management (Agomuo, 2005). The author stated that information and communication gadgets, equipment and facilities improve the manner in which message is preserved, recalled, shared and relayed for information and communication purposes.  Agomuo further stated that the electronic systems are now available for the performance of many functions that were formerly done manually in offices. This makes for greater effectiveness and efficiency in the performance of office activities. New digital machines and electronic equipment now make for faster, neater, more accurate and more reliable outputs.  Most activities of office managers and their assistants are now based on the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) which promotes organizational efficiency. 

As a result of new ideas caused by Information and Communication Technology (ICT), the world has become a global village. Ofurum and Ogbonna (2008), in their view stated that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is the combination of computing, telecommunication and video techniques for the purpose of acquiring, processing, storing, and disseminating vocal, pictorial, textual and numerical information.  These basic objectives of ICT are made possible through the computing, telecommunication and video techniques. The computing techniques provide the capacity for processing and storing of information; the telecommunicating techniques provides the capacity for communicating the information to users; and the video techniques provides the capability for high quality display of images.  Information and Communication Technology (ICT), according to Igbinoba (2005), refers to the use of skill in combining information and communication process and devices to obtain, analyse, store, recall and transmit accurate information from one place to another.  In this study, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) are tools used for processing, transmitting or communicating data and information electronically.  The effective use of ICT requires some peculiar skills that are essential to any activity.

The possession of the appropriate ICT skills leads to the effectiveness and efficiency in information processing, storage and disseminating of information in local government.  Skill as a concept is the ability to use human knowledge effectively in carrying out a given task. In view of Nkokelonye (2008), skill is the ability to put into use acquired competencies, attitudes, and behaviour after an exposure to theories and practices fundamental in a field of study.  Ezeji and Okorie in Odu (2010) identified three major categories of skill, which are technical skills, human skills and conceptual skills. Technical skills encompass the understanding and proficiency in specific activities, especially one involving methods and procedures. It is the ability to use knowledge, methods, techniques and equipment necessary for the performance of specific tasks.  The technical skills are acquired from experience, education and training in specialised fields, such as medicine, engineering, music, office administration, and accounting among others. Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN) (2008) in the National Policy on Education (NPE) stated that technical skills are for empowering and preparing youths for the world of work. On the other hand, human skills refer to the ability of an individual to work effectively to encourage co-operative effort within the group of which he is member of the team. Conceptual ability involves the ability to recognize the interdependence of the various functions of an organisation. Conceptual skills draw heavily on one’s analytical and diagnostics capacities to identify problems and opportunities, gather and interpret relevant information, and make good problem solving decisions that serve the organizational purpose.  In the context of this work, a person is said to have acquired a skill when the person can competently and professionally finish a given piece of work at a given time with minimum errors. The possession and application of ICT skills has become indispensable in modern offices.

The strategic position which the office occupies in any given organisation as the information nerve centre has in turn placed major emphasis on the use of Information and Communication Technology in offices.  The universal nature of the office makes it a place of action, where various functions necessary for information handling are performed, and each function involves the use of one form of technology or another (Agomuo, 2005).  The author further stated that the office has been described as a place where administration, which is the management and handling of information takes place.  According to Oyesode (2006), an office is a place (room or building) where the paper or clerical work of an organisation is done. The author also pointed out that the office is a place where administrative, clerical and financial duties in an organisation are done. In the office environment of today, different types of business including the small, medium and large scale companies are relying on Information and Communication Technology (ICTs) to run their primary business operations. Devices ranging from photocopiers, computers, fax-machines, electronic communication, and image processing among others have their own intelligence and are used to perform functions more efficiently in offices (Eze, 2000).  As pointed by Oyesode (2005), not only do these integrated systems ensure the smooth operation of basic office functions, but they increasingly provide key interfaces between management and clients in modern offices. 

Business operations in modern offices are getting more complex and advanced as they are now ICT – based demanding various skills from the secretaries. Every aspect of business operations such as communication, finance, manufacturing and engineering is experiencing great changes through the application of ICT devices.  These functions of business are now technologically-based and they require technology-based skills. The term information and communication technology – based office skills are generally referred to the use of integrated computer systems to support administrative procedures in an office environment.  ICT-based office systems represent structured methods of handling business and communication through an integrated network that may include, word processing for generating correspondence, electronic message systems for person-to-person communication, teleconferencing services, facsimile transmission, electronic filing system, on line calendar systems and links to corporate files and outside services (Eze, 2000).  The major features or characteristics of ICTbased offices are that work organizations are getting increasingly flexible, process-based and multi-tasking.  According to Oranu and Ogwo (2006), the growing complexities of office systems have made employers to seek for employees who are able to flexibly adapt, apply and transfer knowledge to different contents under varying technological conditions and to respond independently and creatively.  Employees in modern offices, including government offices are required to be equipped with the ICT-based office skills for easy, effective and efficient operations. The general functions of an office that are performed through ICT are gathering of information, keeping information, arranging information, giving information and protecting information.