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6.1 Electronic communication tools



Unit 6.1 Electronic communication tools
Unit 6.2 Email as a form of electronic communication (e-communication)
Unit 6.3 Social implications

image Learning outcomes

At the end of this chapter, you will be able to:

  • describe electronic communication
  • describe the applications/tools that facilitate e-communication
  • use email as a form of e-communications
  • explain the social issues pertaining to ergonomics, green computing issues and health issues
  • explain the social issues pertaining to e-communication.



In the past, communication between people was done either face to face, using the telephone or by writing letters. Now we live in a world where electronic communication (or e-communication) is the preferred way of communication. Electronic communication refers to any data, information, words, photos, emojis and symbols that are sent electronically to one or more people.

There are many ways to communicate, allowing you to:

  • make phone calls using your computer
  • share the same message with many people at the same time without sending the same message individually
  • interact with different platforms on the internet and make comments, update statuses or even send messages
  • use video conferencing.

In this chapter, we will look at the different electronic communication tools and the different types of applications used in electronic communications. We will also look at email and how to compose and send basic email messages as well as basic email netiquette.

Figure 6.1: Examples of e-communication

6.1 Electronic communication tools


Electronic communication is any data, information, words, photos or symbols exchanged electronically using a computing device to communicate with one or more people.

Today, thanks to computers and the internet, we now have many different ways of communicating, from sending an email to uploading videos on YouTube.


The following section will briefly look at some of the most popular electronic communication tools.


One of the very first forms of internet communication was email (electronic mail). It allowed users to send and receive messages and documents electronically over the internet. Email is still widely used today in various ways. This includes:

  • sending out marketing communication to potential clients
  • communicating within and / or between businesses
  • sending messages to many different people simultaneously.
Figure 6.2: Gmail is an example of an email application

Because it is so easy to send an email, users may receive hundreds daily. Email is still the most popular and important communication medium in the business world.


A web browser is a program that provides a user interface for accessing information on the world wide web. It allows you to browse webpages, search for websites containing information and to do activities.

Figure 6.3: Some of the largest websites in the world are social media networks

Social media networks are a good way of keeping in touch with family and friends, especially those who are far away. Many companies and organisations also use social media to communicate with their users and fans.

New words

social media network – a network of individuals, like friends, acquaintances, and coworkers who are connected by interpersonal relationships

Take note

Chat rooms can be dangerous and lead to unsolicited approaches by people who wish to take advantage of a young person. Do not reveal personal details to people you do not know and always consider safety


File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a client/server protocol used for transferring large files or folders. It can be secured with user names and passwords.

FTP allows you to access an FTP site. The site looks like a folder on your computer. Once you open the site, you can either upload files to the FTP site or download files from the site. It is still used for uploading new files to a web server.


Instant messaging is type of online chat that offers real time text transmission over the internet. It is used for real-time communications and is convenient. It mostly uses data, but can be accessed using a network service (such as Wi-Fi). Some of the most popular applications used are WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.


Chat rooms are tools that allow you to join a group online and then exchange messages (or chat) in that group. Group chats have a similar structure to a physical social get-together. Group chats can be diverse, are not restricted, and people are able to have live conversations, often about different topics.

One of the popular chat applications is WhatsApp group chats. This application gives its users the platform to create and join a group that has a common topic or interest. Today, WhatsApp groups have become the preferred choice of communications among learners, committees and neighbourhood watches. There are also other social networks that allows you to create groups.


VoIP is a standard set of rules allowing you to make voice calls over a network. A popular application used for making VoIP calls is Skype.

The quality of VoIP calls depends on your internet connection. If the connection is weak, users may experience a slight delay when speaking.

VoIP calls can be used for personal voice calls, where users can speak directly to one another, or business and video conferences, when it is necessary to see the person you are speaking to.


A video call is mixed media using video and audio for communication. Hardware required can be:

  • webcam/camera
  • microphone.

Blogs (short for web logs) is an online platform that allows text and picture content to be created and shared with other people. Blogs can be in the form of an online magazine or a platform that is hosted on a website where a blogger (or a small group of people) post regular articles and photographs about topics they are interested in. The latest articles appear at the top of the blog, allowing website visitors to easily stay up to date with the newest stories. In South Africa there are many popular blog websites, such as WebPress.

Websites such as the Verge, Engadget and Gizmodo are also examples of blogs focused on technology.


Vlogs (short for video blogging) are like blogs, except that the posts are in a video format. Most vloggers do not have their own vlog websites, but rather place videos on popular video sharing websites like YouTube and Facebook TV. Some Vloggers have an audience of millions of viewers, meaning that their video posts have received billions of views.

Figure 6.4: Gizmodo is a popular technology blog

A webinar is similar to a seminar, but it is hosted online. Webinars are usually used to deliver lectures, presentations or workshops to a group of people over the internet. They are mostly scheduled for a specific time.

Webinars are now commonly used in an online learning platform by many educational institutions. These webinars enable students to attend classes without physically going to a classroom.

image Activity 6.1 Individual activity

6.1.1Match column A with column B. Only write the question number and the alphabet letter, e.g. 1 – M.


6.1.2Your grandparents have decided to join the online world! Their motivation: close family members recently moved overseas, and they want to keep in touch. They got a pamphlet that says the following and then gives some options for three Internet plans, option 1, 2 and 3.

VoIP (e.g. Skype or FaceTime) helps users stay in touch with family and friends by giving video messaging at little to no cost. Users can make high-quality audio and video calls to people anywhere in the world.

Need broadband?


Now, your grandfather wants to understand the terminology to make an informed decision. He gave you a list of questions that he needs explained before making a decision.

a.Explain why one would need an internet plan to be able to communicate with family over the internet?

b.Expand on the acronym VoIP.

c.Give one or two disadvantages of having VoIP.

d.List three ways that email can be used.

e.If a friend wants to upload some books for you to read, how would they do it?

f.Your grandfather wants to know what the free night-surfer data is all about. Explain what it meant by this concept, why it is used as a selling point and whether your grandfather is likely to benefit from this aspect.

g.Would all three these options automatically be available in the neighbourhood where your grandfather lives? Explain your answer.

6.2 Email as a form of e-communication

In this unit, you will learn how to use email to communicate online. In addition, you will also learn about the following:

  • the different uses of emails
  • email accounts (internet service provider (ISP) and web-based)
  • email addresses
  • how to use email (best practices) .

In order to receive emails, you need an email account and address, which will enable you to send and receive emails. Whomever you wish to communicate with, will also need their own email address.

An email address is a unique identifier of who owns an email account. It is important to understand how to type an email address correctly because, if entered incorrectly, the email will not be delivered to the intended recipient and might end up being sent to the incorrect person!

Email addresses are always written in a standard format. This standard format consists of two parts: a local-part (or user name) and a domain-part. These two parts are separated by the symbol, @. The local part of an email address is used by the receiving mail server to determine where the email must go and what must be done with it after it arrived at its destination.

The the email address computer@mweb.co.za is explained below.

Figure 6.5: Components of an email address

When looking for an email service provider, you will first need to consider whether you want to use a web-based or an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to manage your emails. Because both have their advantages and limitations, which one you choose will depend on how much money you are willing to spend and how important it is for you to maintain your email account.

Table 6.1 compares the advantages and disadvantages of each type of email account.

Table 6.1: ISP vs. web-based


Did you know

The top current webmail providers are Google’s Gmail, Yahoo and Microsoft’s Outlook. These are most commonly used because they allow you to access your email account from anywhere in the world, provided that you have an internet connection. You can also access webmail from a mobile device!


To: The recipient’s address
Cc (carbon copy): Lets all recipients see the email addresses of everyone the message was sent to.
Bcc (blind carbon copy): The identities of the other recipients will not be shown.
Subject: The title of the email, used to gain the attention of the recipients.
Attachment: Files that you want to share with the recipient.


The following happens when an email is sent:

Figure 6.6: This is how email works

The QR code alongside will explain in detail how email works.



Whenever you communicate on the internet – whether it is via email, instant messaging or by posting a blog – it is important that you follow proper netiquette. This will not only make the internet a more pleasant place for everyone, it will also save you from potential embarrassment in the future!

The following are some guidelines you can follow when communicating on the internet:

  • Show people on the internet the same respect you would show to them in real life.
  • Do not say things to people you would not say to them in real life.
  • Do not post things on the internet that you would not want your mother or future boss to see.
  • Things posted on the internet often last forever. This means that things you post as a teenager or young adult can negatively affect the rest of your life.
  • Make sure your messages are clearly written and easy to understand.
  • When joining an existing conversation, speak about subjects relevant to the topic.
  • Try to make useful contributions and help people out on the internet.
  • If you need help from the internet, do not expect other people to do all the work for you. Do as much work as you can before asking your question.
  • See if there are existing conversations about your topic before starting new conversations.
  • Do not spam people! Do not post the same advertisement repeatedly.

While the tips covered in this section are generally good guidelines, it is important to note that netiquette differs from site to site and changes rapidly without notice. When joining a new website, spend some time figuring out what is acceptable behaviour on that website before sending out your messages.


E-communications has many advantages over traditional modes of communication as well as disadvantages. We will look at these in terms of accuracy, time, distance, communication costs and speed.

  • Provides a written record of a communication, which is available for a long time.
  • Is inexpensive to send and receive email messages.
  • Can be sent from anywhere in the world and at any time provided you have an internet connection.
  • It is an environmentally friendly alternative to sending regular mail.
  • Can be typed and temporarily stored and sent at a later stage.
  • Email attachments can be used to spread viruses.
  • Spam (electronic junk mail i.e. advertising) is a big problem. Over time many institutions will acquire your email address and start sending advertisements to you via email.

image Activity 6.2

6.2.1Fill in the missing words in the crossword puzzle below.


6.2.2Your friend has bought a new computer; he has a modem-router combination. He wants to connect to the internet to chat to his friends. Answer the following questions:

a.The priority is being able to receive and send email. List any additional hardware that he might need to accomplish this and briefly explain the function or purpose of the hardware.

b.Compare the advantages and disadvantages of the two types of e-mail accounts (web-based or ISP-based).

c.Your friend has never actually sent email his entire life, but he has heard of people referring to something called Netiquette. Give the owner THREE practical rules of netiquette when it comes to sending out emails.

6.2.3Mpho sent Vusi a document via email. What can Vusi do to make sure that he gets the document without viruses?

6.3 Social implications


Using computers every day may result in several long-term health problems. This unit will look at the most significant health problems associated with computer use, before providing you with some tips on how to reduce the health risks associated with the daily use of computers. Regular computer use is not just bad for your own health, but also for the health of the environment. The last part of this unit will therefore look at green computing, and its importance to the environment.

New words

green computing – the environmentally responsible and eco-friendly use of computers and their resources


Ergonomics is the study or science of how humans interact with man-made objects and then creating products to increase productivity, reduce discomfort and reduce injuries. In our modern environment these products include, keyboards, a mouse, computer desks and chairs.

Figure 6.7: Good ergonomic positions


Key ergonomic guidelines for safe computer usage include:

  • Sit up straight with your back perpendicular to the ground.
  • Your forearms should be at the same height as your mouse and keyboard.
  • Your feet should be placed firmly on the ground or on a footrest.
  • The back of your chair, height of your chair and height of your armrest should be adjusted to support your body in this position.
  • Your monitor should be positioned at eye level and roughly 50 cm away from you. You may need to place something under your monitor to increase its height.
  • Your monitor should be tilted to reduce glare.
  • You should stand-up and take regular breaks while using the computer.

Did you know

Energy Star is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency voluntary program that helps businesses and individuals save money and protect our climate through superior energy efficiency. Energy Star provides simple, credible, and unbiased information that consumers and businesses rely on to make well-informed decisions to save money and reduce emissions. https://www.energystar.gov/


Green computing aims to reduce the environmental impact of the daily use of computers. Below are some examples of green computing:

  • Using bio-degradable materials
  • Using low-power devices (LED backlit screen, Solid State Drives (SSD))
  • Using a power management function on your computing device.

While it is probably not bad for your health to use a computer for a few minutes every day, spending hours in front of the computer every day can be bad for your health. The most common health problems associated with regular computer use include:

  • Back and neck pain: sitting hunched forward or lying back in your chair can cause both back pain and neck pain.
  • Hand or arm pain: this is caused by the overuse of a mouse and keyboard.
  • Eyestrain: by focusing your eyes for hours on the screen.
  • Obesity: inactivity sitting behind the computer for extended periods of time.
  • Computer stress: being anxious or nervous when a computer malfunctions or does not perform optimally as expected.

Frequent use of a computer keyboard can increase the risk of:

  • Repetitive strain injury (RSI): a general term used to describe the pain felt in muscles, nerves and tendons caused by repetitive movement and overuse.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS): a condition that causes numbness, tingling and other symptoms in the hand and arm.
Figure 6.8: Poor sitting posture

image Activity 6.3

6.3.1Choose a term/concept from COLUMN B that matches a description in COLUMN A. Write only the letter next to the question number (e.g. 1– A). Some of the questions (column A) may have more than one correct answer (column B)


6.3.2Which rules of ergonomics do you normally follow, and which rules do you break?

6.3.3Your mother has recently started working in an office environment. After the first month, she started complaining about regular headaches and back pain that you believe may be the result of poor ergonomics. Based on this information answer the following questions:

a.What is ergonomics?

b.How can poor ergonomics cause back pain?

c.How can headaches be caused by poor ergonomics?

d.Which five tips would you give your mother to help reduce her pain?

e.What are the advantages of using a standing desk? Could a standing desk help your mother?

6.3.4The image below shows the general structure for Google’s data centres.


To reduce their impact on the environment as well as their cost, Google has invested millions of Rand to improve the power use effectiveness (or PUE) of their data centres. As a result, Google’s data centres are 50% more energy efficient than the average data centre. Based on this information, answer the following questions.

a.Why is it important that data centres are energy efficient?

b.How does computer-use result in more greenhouse gasses being emitted?

c.Name four things that you, as a normal computer user, can do to conserve energy?

6.3.5Computing devices, including mobile phones, are mostly made of nonbiodegradable substances such as plastic. Think of two green computing practices that you could follow when buying a new mobile phone when your old one is still in good working order. Explain them.

CONSOLIDATION ACTIVITY Chapter 6: Electronic communications

1.Choose the correct answer.

a.Which one of the following is a use of video calling.

i.Allows you to see the person you are speaking to

ii.Allows you to give a presentation to a group of people over the internet

iii.Allows you to share media to people who couldn’t attend a function

iv.All of the above

b.This is an article posted in video format.




iv.None of the above.

c.What does FTP stand for?

i.File transfer process

ii.File transfer progress

iii.File transfer protocol

iv.File transfer practice

d.Which one of the following is untrue of emails.

i.Emails are usually short and to the point

ii.Email is more formal than messages

iii.Used for communicating within a business

iv.The recipient receives an email within seconds after it is sent

2.Choose the answer and write ‘true’ or ‘false’ next to the question number. Correct the statement if it is FALSE. Change the word(s) in bold to make the statement TRUE where necessary.

a.A web browser like Chrome or Firefox is designed to open and view websites.

b.Etiquette is having good manners when communicating on the internet.

c.VoIP is also used when lessons are presented over the internet.

d.A vlog i s a website where one person (or a small group of people) write regular articles about topics they are interested in.

e.The first step to communicating electronically is to make sure you have an account with the online service provider you would like to use.

3.Answer the following questions in your own words.

a.VoIP will be used for video calls over the Internet. Briefly discuss TWO possible problems that could be experienced when using VoIP.

b.List any TWO advantages of instant messaging.

c.Give a brief description of a chatroom and how it is an e-communication tool.

d.List any TWO uses of websites.

e.One of the world’s most popular types of websites are social network websites (or social networks).

i.Describe what a social network is and how it is used.

ii.Give ONE advantage of a social network.

f.Answer the questions based on the figure below:


i.What is the difference between Cc and Bcc in an email?

ii.List ANY three netiquette rules that have been violated.

g.Briefly explain what a blog is.

h.Briefly explain how a webinar is an example of an e-communication tool.

i.Email is a e-communication tool that allows you to send text messages. Give other THREE uses email has.

4.Mr Knowitall’s family’s Internet service provider is Bluedot. As part of their contract, the Knowitall family receives one free email address. Should they need more email addresses, they need to pay an additional fee per month for each additional email address. Mr Knowitall has a business organising weddings and outdoor events and the business name is Rain! Events

a.Suggest a suitable domain and thus an email address for Mr Knowitall’s business.

b.Mr Knowitall needs to make a few calls to a potential client in Brazil. Briefly explain to Mr Knowitall how he can make these calls without wasting a lot of money. State ONE disadvantage of this type of tool.

c.How would Mr Knowitall avoid viruses getting on to his computer via attachments to his emails?

d.Mr Knowitall finds that he Is getting a lot of junk mail. Explain what junk mail is.

e.Explain how do the senders of the junk email know Mr Knowitall’s email address.

5.Jonathan has recently been employed by ABC Corporation. He has just read some of the rules around the use of email at the company.

a.Jonathan is rather upset when he reads that the company reserves the right to monitor all employee emails. Comment on whether you think this is an ethical practice.

b.The company has placed a limit on the size of the attachments that can be sent via email. Explain why this restriction has been put in place.

c.What could the company do so that it would no longer really matter what the size of the email attachments are?