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e-Skills Dictionary

The ICT glossary mainly contains terms that have been used on the website. Information and communication technology is a very large field with its own complex words. If there is a word you don't understand and it isn't in this ICT glossary, search ICT glossary' or ICT dictionary'on the internet.

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  • Term of the day

    coding
    This refers to the action of creating the computer code when writing a computer program.

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A

 
Application A computer programme or suite of computer programmes that perform a particula function for the user (such as a word processor like Microsoft Word) or a range of functions (such as Microsoft Windows).
 

B

 
Back up To make a duplicate but separately-stored copy of the contents of a computer-held data set, software application or individual files
Bandwidth Range of signal frequencies which indicates how much data can pass along a channel at one time. Another way of looking at is to imagine a 'pipe' the bandwidth refers to the size of the pipe that data can pass through.
Bits per second (bps) Unit of measurement of data transfer speed. For example, the bit rate fo widely-used modems is in the range 300 to 56000 bps (or 56 kbit/s: higher rates are given in Kbit/s).
Broadband It used to have the meaning 'faster than common networks' and so the actual meaning depends on what is common at the time. Currently broadband is regarded as starting at 34 Mbit/sec (Mbps)under this classification, all commonly-occuring local area networks (such as Ethernet) are narrowband.
Browser Software used to search and retrieve information from the world wide web. The major web browsers are Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Opera and Safari.
 

C

 
Cache Temporary memory used to access frequently-used instructions. This speeds up processing time. It also refers to the temporary storage of world wide web pages by browser software.
CD-ROM
(compact disk read-only memory)
This is a computer storage medium. It is an optical disk which looks like a 12cm audio CD but contains a range of data types stored digitally (like words, graphics and sound) rather than only sound.
CD writer (compact disk writer) Hardware device which saves information onto a CD.
Central processing unit It usually means the microprocessor. This is the integrated curcuit that is the controlling core of a personal computer. Sometimes it refers to the box and its contents.
Coding This refers to the action of creating the computer code when writing a computer progamme.
Compatiblity Pieces of equipment or software than can be used together without special modifcation or adaptation are termed 'compatible'.
Convergence It refers to the way that computing, telecommunications and, more recently, television are moving towards a common technological base. There is no universal definition of convergence but it is generally understood to mean the ability of a network to carry different kinds of services (such as voice, data and video). Previously, each of these would need a different network.
Cookie Set of instructions from a web server to a client machine. Cookies may be used by a web site owner to identify and truck users of that site. Browsers can be customised to accept or reject cookies.
Crash A sudden failure of software or hardware, often resulting in no response to mouse or keyboard actions.
Cursor A movable symbol 'usually an arrow' that responds t mouse or keyboard movements. It shows the correlating position on screen.
 

D

 
Data In computing, data means information.
Database This is a structured collection of conceptually-related data or data files organised and stored in a computer system. Databases can be setup in different ways. The simplest are tables with a row for each record (a set of related items such as an indiviual name and address) and a column for each field (the categories within each record such as last name, house number, town, etc.). The most powerful databases use a method of storing data which does not restrict the way users can retrieve it.
Desktop computer This is a traditional office or personal computer. It has three or more parts linked together by cables: the system unit which houses the central processing unit and disk drives, monitor, a keyboard and probably a mouse.
Dial-up It is a connection to the internet or another computer over an ordinary telephone line.
Digital Divide The digital divide is a term referring to the economic inequality between groups because of the access or lack of access to ICT. It includes access, use and knowledge of ICT.
Digital inclusion
(also called e-inclusion)
Also called e-inclusion, this is a social movement where the goal is to end the digital divide.
Domain name It is a unique name that identifies a website. For example, the domain for this website is www.inesi.org. It is also called a web or internet address.
Download To download is to use one computer to get data from another computer. Usually people refer to downloading when transferring information from the internet to their computer.
Drive This refers to the place where computer data is stored. There are different types of drives. An example is an external hard drive which allows computer users to store information in an external machine.
 

E

 
E-astuteness Developing e-competent individuals by giving them appropriate ICT-related knowledge and skills, and training them to develop a competent attitude and knowledge to use them and adapt to the rapidly-changing new forms of ICT devices and associated software. (Also see e-social astuteness.)
E-learning The definition of e-learning (electronic learning) still needs to be agreed upon. Currently the most accepted definition is if someone is learning in a way that uses ICTs, they are using e-learning. It could be an interactive game or searching on the internet. It is a catch-all definition relating to the use of ICT in teaching and learning.
Electronic communications Communication by computer.
Electronic Communications and Transaction Act This Act was passed in 2002 in South Africa and regulates electronic communications and transactions.
E-literacy The concept of e-literacy is a development from the understanding around other types of technological and functional broad- based literacy (see below). The broadest vision of e-literacy involves empowering every individual to become an active member of the emerging information society.
  • 'Computer literacy' can be broadly defined as the knowledge and ability to use computers and related technologies competently, and ranges from elementary to high level.
  • 'Information and media literacy' can be defined as the ability to know when there is a need for information and to be able to identify, locate, evaluate, and effectively use that information.
  • 'Digital literacy' refers to the ability to identify, locate, organise, understand, evaluate, analyse, re-interpret and apply information using digital technology. It involves a working knowledge of current technology and an appreciation for how it can be within various contexts.
  • 'Broad-based literacy' includes not only the decoding and comprehension of text, but the ability to access, analyse, evaluate, communicate, and use information to solve problems and create new knowledge.
E-mail (electronic mail) Messages or letters sent and received in electronic form via computers.
Encryption Encryption is the conversion of data into a format that cannot be read except with a special decryption programme. Used on the internet for secure transactions.
E-skills An e-skill means being able to use technology so you can actively participate in the world and move ahead: in your culture and community; by exploring new ways of doing in your personal life; when you learn; through contacting government online; with jobs and in business, and with your friends.

The official South African definition is: The ability to use and develop ICTs within the context of an emerging South African information society and global knowledge economy, and associated competencies that enable individuals to actively participate in the world in which ICT is a requirement for advancement in government, business, education and society in general.

E-social astuteness A smart way of applying acquired e-skills and e-astuteness for everyday socio-economic development and better life opportunities for local benefit in a socio-economic dynamic, increasingly impacted by new forms of ICT.
Extranet A network connecting a group of entities using internet protocols, but separate from the internet. Often an extranet involves parts of an organisation's internet shared with other organisations. An extranet is an intranet that is accessible to computers that are not physically part of a company's own private network, but that is not accessible to the general public. For example to allow vendors and business partners to access a company web site. Often an intranet will make use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
 

F

 
File A file is a collection of data held on a computer as one thing with one name. A file can be a piece of work created by the user in an application such as a word processor or a database. Each file needs a unique label (filename) in order to be accessed. See also directory.
Firewall This is a means of protecting a networked computer system to prevent unauthorised access.
 

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H

 
Hard copy Printed output from a computer as opposed to the 'soft' copy stored on the computer.
Hardware Hardware refers to the phyical components of a computer or a communications system, including both mechanical and electronic parts (such as the processor, hard drive, keyboard, screen, cables, mouse and printer). See also software.
Home page The opening or main page of a web site of a particular organisation or individual.
Host / hosting A host is the computer acting as a information or communications server. It is also used for a computer acting as a web server. A 'host' is the name given to the internet service provider (ISP) that provides server space for a web site. For example you would say: "Who is hosting your site?"
Hyperlink (also link) In a hypertext document, such as a world wide page, a hyperlink is a predetermined area that can be clicked on to jump to other documents, or other parts of the same document. The predetermined are can be a word or set of worlds, an image or part of an image.
 

I

 
Information and communications technology (ICT) The application of modern communications and computing technologies to create, manage and use information.
Information society This is a term describing a society where the creation, distribution and manipulation of information has become the most significant economic and cultural activity. It can be contrasted with industrial and agrarian societies. The tools of the information society are computers and telecommunications.
Install To copy all the files of a software package on to a computer and make any changes needed to existing files so that the software then works. Installation or set-up programmes do this for users.
Interception To receive a communication or signal directed elsewhere, usually secretly.
Interface An electronic circuit, usually designed to a specific standard, that enables one machine to telecommunicate with another machine.
Internet Also known as the ‘net’, the inter-communicating computer networks which host and provide access to the world wide web, file transfer, e-mail, news and other services.
Internet protocol (IP) An electronic circuit, usually designed to a specific standard, that enables one machine to telecommunicate with another machine.
Internet service provider (ISP) An organisation with a direct connection to the internet acting as an intermediary for other users: providing them with an e-mail address and software; access to the world wide web, and often space on web servers for home pages etc.
Intranet An internal web site set up to serve a closed group, such as a school, which contains pertinent information such as school documents, bulletin boards, health and safety information etc.
 

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K

 
Keyboard A device attached to the computer which enables users to use standard software on the computer. It is a grid of numbers, letters and symbols as represented on the standard keyboard.
Kbits/sec Usually abbreviated to Kb. A unit of measurement consisting of 1,024 bits, mainly relating to data transmission speed.
Knowledge economy This is a system of consumption and production that is based on intellectual capital. In a knowledge economy, a significant part of a company's value may consist of intangible assets such as the value of its workers' knowledge.
 

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Laptop computer A portable computer, small enough to carry around and use on a lap.
 

M

 
Mbits/sec one million bits per second.
Memory One of its meanings encompasses all the areas used by a computer to store information, including the long-term storage area used by computer systems to hold programmes and information files (on a personal computer, the hard drive). Its meaning is sometimes restricted to the ‘random access memory’ (RAM), which is the computer’s temporary working store, usually a single chip which can hold very large amounts of data and manipulate it very quickly, but will not retain it when the power supply is switched off. For that, it must be saved to the hard disk. Some forms of storage are ‘read-only’ (ROM), with information which has been recorded during manufacture and cannot then be altered, added to or erased, e.g. CD-ROMs.
Menu A list of options from which a user can select in order, for instance, to start a programme or open a file.
Modem (modulator-demodulator) A device which translates digital signals into audio signals (and vice versa) so that data can be carried over ordinary telephone lines. Modems operate at different speeds depending on the model.
Monitor A screen used with a computer
Motherboard The main printed circuit board (PCB) in the computer which holds the principal components.
Mouse A small plastic box with clickable buttons on top and a rolling ball or optical ‘reader’ underneath, moved by hand across a flat surface to control the screen cursor position. It enables the user to access menus and to select and move words or other objects around the screen.
Multimedia A combination of moving images, graphics, text and sound. A multimedia machine is fitted with hardware such as sound and video cards and a CD-ROM drive, and may include peripherals such as a camera, microphone and scanner.
 

N

 
Network An electronic communications system linking computers, computer systems and peripherals such as file servers and printers.
Notebook A type of laptop computer, lighter and thinner than earlier models.
 

O

 
Online This means being connected to a computer or network of computers, especially the world wide web. Often used in the sense of working with software stored at a remote location. For example, if you use learning materials stored at a website you are working online.
Operating systems (OS) A programme or set of programmes which controls the computer. Different types of computer use different operating systems, including MS-DOS, Windows 95 and successors, Risc-OS, and MacOS.
 

P

 
Peripheral A hardware device which can be plugged into the computer to perform some additional function such as a disk drive, a printer, an overlay keyboard or VDU.
Pixel The smallest point in a screen image.
Plugins Optional additional features which can be added to a software package.
Port An interface between the central processing unit and any peripheral devices.
Printer A device used to produce hard copy (paper copy) from a computer. Various types are available: a dot matrix printer produces output by firing pins against an inked ribbon; bubble or inkjet printers squirt or squeeze ink through pins, and a laser printer works in a similar way to a photocopier.
Program (or programme) The standard term for the set of instructions carried out in sequence by a computer to perform a given task. Programmes are written in English-like programming languages and are then translated into binary code by an intermediary programme called a compiler. Large software systems are normally sets of several programmes.
 

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R

 
RAM An acronym for Random Access Memory, referring to the dynamic memory in the silicon chips in a computer. RAM chips are the memory chips used as the temporary working area for running and developing programmes. Data in RAM can be read and written to (i.e. changed) in microseconds, as opposed to the much slower data access times for discs, but RAM's contents disappear the moment the computer is switched off. The more RAM a computer has, the more flexibility the user has. RAM used to be measured in kilobytes (KB) but now it is usually expressed in megabytes (MB) and even gigabytes (GB).
Resolution The clarity and sharpness of pictures and text as they appear on the screen or on paper, often measured in dots per inch (dpi). The greater the dpi, the better the resolution. Screen resolution is measured by the number of pixels in a row and the number of rows and columns, together with the size of the pixel on the screen. The larger the screen, the higher the resolution should be.
Router A communications device that chooses the route by which information should travel through a network.
 

S

 
Scanner A device that allows hard-copy pictures and text to be converted into digital form for use on a computer. Small hand-held devices work by rolling the scanner head across the paper. Larger flatbed scanners work rather like a portable photocopying machine. Can also be used to read bar codes and convert them into numeric data.
Screen saver A facility to switch a computer screen off or alter the display if the keyboard or mouse has not been used for a while.
Scroll To move up and down or from side to side through a document or window to view or access its contents.
Search engine Software, often found on web sites, which searches for information on the world wide web or text-based databases.
Server A computer system that provides a particular service to devices on a network. In the context of the client-server model, a server is the software on a remote computer servicing a client with the resources the client requests. In a local network, a file server holds system software on its hard disk, and is usually the most powerful machine in the system. A network may have a number of file servers storing data of a particular type. Network users can access their own files remotely and interchange information with these central stores.
Session A semi-permanent interactive information interchange, also known as a dialogue, a conversation or a meeting, between two or more communicating devices, or between a computer and user.
Software A generic term for all computer programmes. Software falls into two major types: applications (such as spreadsheets or databases) and systems software (such as MS-DOS or Windows).
Sound card A printed circuit board that can be plugged into a slot in the motherboard of a computer to expand its capabilities and allow sound output. Sometimes referred to as a sound board.
 

T

 
Third party website These are web sites that belong to third parties ie entities other than the organisation that owns the main web site.
 

U

 
Upgrade This is a new version of a piece of software which is made available to registered users of an earlier version at a lower price than is charged to new users.
Upload To transfer data from a small computer (such as a personal computer) to a larger or main one. Also to transfer data from a storage medium to a computer. It is the opposite of download.
URL (Uniform Resource Locator) A unique reference locating a file on the world wide web and other internet resources
e.g. http://www.inesi.org.
 

V

 
Virus Mischievous or destructive software transferred covertly to files and applications, often via the internet or with other files on a disk. Some can disable a computer or network once activated and must, if possible, be removed using anti-virus software.
 

W

 
Web page A file created in hypertext mark-up language and displayed on the world wide web.
Web site (website) Area on a server linked to the internet which is devoted to one organisation or individual’s web pages.
 

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