Information technology has become one of the key steers of the modern day life. The advancements that the electronics and technological platforms have witnessed over the last half a decade have changed all the structures globally. Computers, mobile phones, the Internet, and cloud computing among other developments have made life much easier and comfortable. These developments were not impulsive, and the changes were gradual over a substantial duration. Today, information technology is still experiencing major transformation and advancements. Some new inventions and innovations like the bitcoin and virtual reality are continually improving lives and enhancing transactions across the globe. All the research that led to these changes was not professional or intentionally executed. According to Bonney et al. (2014), citizen science and crowdsourcing have contributed immensely towards the advancement of many scientific fields. The latter has been in existence since time immemorial. Unlike crowdsourcing, citizen science, also known as a volunteer, civic, or networked science, may not involve seeking for a solution or certain predefined objectives, but rather a passion, one that is inculcated in the individual pursuing a particular course. Intensive scientific researchers have developed the information technology world. However, citizen science and crowdsourcing have made immense developments in the field that can never be underestimated.
Professional scientists indulge in different fields to achieve specific predefined objectives. The nature of their work and the pressure from their superiors force them to focus all their attention on a given path. However, the same is not true for citizen scientists. According to Zhao and Zhu (2014), the general assumption is that these individuals are amateurs. Most people may not appreciate that they have a passion for whatever they do, and it is what makes the biggest difference contributing to remarkable outcomes. For instance, citizen scientists have helped biologists, anthropologists, and botanists with animal species, specific behaviors, and other characteristics that they would not have established on their own. In the information technology platform, there exist many geniuses that may not be professionals, but yet they can read and understand codes and make tremendous advancements to it. The open source software operating systems such as Android and Ubuntu have helped these individuals to explore the technological platform making tremendous changes and improvements to it. Most companies have also developed microcontrollers that are easy to program and integrate into projects. These structures help the passionate individuals without predefined scientific obligations to use their skills and help professionals in changing the world.
Crowdsourcing, similar to its counterpart, involves the input of a wide range of individuals with a passion for a particular field. Information technology has been the key beneficiary of this process because of the wide range of participants from across the globe, as postulated by Chiu, Liang, and Turban (2014). The Internet and social media platforms shave made this activity much easier. Some professional companies have used crowdsourcing by offering a reward for competitions that would motivate participants to do their best in the process. Some organizations use the avenue as a test for the security of their servers among many other objectives. The process is cheap, because it does not involve so much input that may maim operations in the founding institution. Companies like Google, Intel, and Microsoft have benefited immensely from crowdsourcing. The information technology is not only a beneficiary, but the biggest one regarding the input and operations that revolve around crowdsourcing.
Benefits of Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing to Information Technology
Information technology is one of the most dynamic fields globally today. These changes have posed major security challenges to its existence, because the greater part of the seven billion global occupants relies on it for various operations. Companies have been working round the clock to ensure that these changes do not affect the security and continuity of their operations. As a result, they have immensely employed the services of citizen science and crowdsourcing that have, in turn, delivered ensuring continuity and development of information technology.
Crowdsourcing and citizen science have helped establish and fortify security for information technology infrastructure. Google is the greatest investor in crowdsourcing to help establish the security of its infrastructure. As noted by Protasov, Charnine, and Melnikov (2014), big technology companies have been posting codes and competitions online with immense rewards, up to $100,000, for individuals that can infiltrate their systems. Such rewards attract skilled players online that would help expose vulnerabilities in these structures leading to development and enhancement of security systems. If such companies were to seek professional help with such an issue, they would spend fortunes and be limited to a narrow scope. However, crowdsourcing, whether paid or not, has access to all kinds of minds ensuring the professional researcher that the outcome would be a clear replica of the prevailing status of their systems.
Crowdsourcing and citizen science have helped in advancing technology and improving the existing ones. Many passionate programmers have always offered means to help modify security systems such as firewalls to ensure airtight and impenetrable systems for various companies. The many minds offer varying ideas that may help in establishing a common system that can solve an existing problem. For instance, the Android operating system has been evolving, improving its functionality and security because of the input of citizen scientists. These individuals may offer advanced information and technological developments without any major demands because they always have a great passion for whatever they do. In software development, crowdsourcing has always helped with the identification of bugs and resolution of the same. Security and development have become the key concerns in technology, and if crowdsourcing and citizen science can guarantee them, it is time for established companies to consider this avenue.
Challenges of Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing to Information Technology
Insecurity is a major challenge of citizen science and crowdsourcing. Sometimes companies may offer part of their code for the public to analyze and scrutinize. Some people may have malicious plans, and it is likely to compromise the safety of the company involved. For instance, when Google avails a code or a project, some hackers may interpret that venture to mean that there exists a possibility of infringing in the company’s infrastructure. Such a thought may motivate the interested individuals to dig deep and gain access to unauthorized information. Once these individuals gain such information, they can use it to blackmail the company or the individuals concerned. Some companies also hold credit card information of many individuals and if the information leak, it may pose major threats to individuals’ resources.
The theft of information technology code and ideas is another major challenge of crowdsourcing. Some people may use the chance to analyze specific software to steal an individual’s code, modify it, and later present it as their own. To date, the globe has witnessed many court cases regarding people claiming that a specific individual or company stole a part of their code and made a fortune out of it. Although slightly different, Facebook and Microsoft have trodden along this path indicating the magnitude of the issue. Sometimes it may be the key to keep a code a secret without exposing it to the public. However, doing so may lead to a company implementing a vulnerable system that may result in worse outcomes compared to losing the software in the first place (Le Bourgeois et al., 2016). It is this kind of dilemma that has made the information technology field unpredictable and difficult to control.
Overall, citizen science and crowdsourcing have been key contributors for a long time towards the global scientific advancements. Research has established that despite their distributed contributions over various fields, information technology has been a major beneficiary. They have been major contributors towards ensuring development and security so that the eventual product is flawless. The procedures help with the testing process and fixing vulnerabilities before the eventual implementation. Their services have helped established companies to guarantee security and continuity in operations. Nonetheless, crowdsourcing may also serve as a potential security threat to the wellbeing of the information technology infrastructure. The activities involve many players from all over the globe. It becomes difficult to control the process and have a guarantee that all the participants will be willing to offer the correct and accurate data. Some may take the proceedings as an opportunity to execute selfish and malicious acts. It is important that any entity participating in crowdsourcing or citizen science as an avenue of establishing standards ensures that everything is in place before the final execution. Despite the middle ground, crowdsourcing and citizen science remain to be key struts in developing information technology.