According to Masiiwa C and Dr G Kabanda (2002) a computer is an electronic digital machine, i.e. a machine that accepts data (input) and processes it into useful information (output). It is made up of five components which are the Central Processing unit (CPU), the memory, the Secondary Storage Unit (SSU), input and output devices. The CPU consists of the Arithmetic Logic Unit (ALU) which performs arithmetic operations and make comparisons and the Control Unit which interprets instructions and directs processing. The input devices enter data and instructions into the computer for the CPU to process while the output devices communicate and record information. The Secondary Storage devices store data and programs for processing. Computers are grouped into microcomputer, minicomputer, mainframe and supercomputer.
Computers have both advantages and disadvantages. The advantages of computers is that they can process data for the organisation using them. The Zimbabwe Defence Forces like any other organisation requires a certain amount of paperwork. This paperwork will provide useful and often necessary information for the running of the organisation, its personnel service record, ect. In recent years data processing has become linked with computers and can be accessed quickly compared to it being kept on paper in files. Computers have reduced the volume of paper work in the force to keep records of its members and information. Besides keeping information records they allow us to access the wealth of information that is available on the internet. They also allow us to analyze massive amounts of data very quickly, saving both time and money. The amount of data that can be stored, manipulated, and retrieved is phenominal.
Computers with some communication protocols also enables communication through Electronic mail (E-mail). A letter or document typed or scanned in one office are transmitted to another office very quickly irrespective of distance. Some of the possible features of the e-mail include automatic redirection of message if the recipient has moved, notification to sender if the message cannot be delivered. The same massage can be sent to several recipients, recording times of dispatch and delivery of messages. Such facilities in security organisation like the ZDF can assist in communication between services, formations and units. Computer conferencing is another facility that can security organisations benefit from using computers. It is similar to electronic mail except that the communications flow is from one participant to many participants. The sessions allow many participants to communicate with many participants.
Security organisations can establish Local Area Network (LAN) for communication. A LAN is an interconnected group of microcomputer or other terminals with a small geographical location such as offices, building or campus. A LAN can be used to distribute copies of common data files and packages to other microcomputer in the network and controls access to laser printers and network peripherals. The main advantages security organisations like the Army and Air Force will get if they establish LAN within their Headquarters is that of resource sharing, software application sharing reducing the costs of acquiring among others. Also since, data will be stored on the server computer centrally, it becomes easy to manage the data at only one place. The data saved will be more secure too, because of more security will be accorded to the server computer.
Security organisation like the army and air force can now access information on current developments in weapons and their prices on the internet and also be able to know the weapons other countries have. The ability to research something or ask questions in real time is amazing. The connection to the internet is of great use. The information is important as it help in the planning and decision making by commanders.
Computers can store large volumes of information without occupying too much space, as is in the case of information stored in form of books and paper documents. The Administrative Departments of the Zimbabwe National Army such as the Zimbabwe Army Pay and Records and Military Police can now maintain pay records and offences records electronically using computers reducing spaces that would be needed if they were still using manual system of pen, papers and files.
Beside store large volumes of information without occupying too much space, using computers to process pay records the Zimbabwe Army Pay and Records will be able eliminate errors associated with human during computing and information processing. In most cases some of these human errors resulted in some cost being incurred by the organisation when some may be over paid.
Information once entered in computer system can be easily accessed by the same person or other persons at different times for different purposes. This reduces the work load of capturing same information multiple times for different purposes. It also makes it possible for different person to work with same information, avoiding the possibility of different persons using different versions of the same information. This is the case with administration departments of the ZDF where certain information may be wanted in future or for different purposes by other sub departments.
While there are advantages associated with using computers in security organisations such as the Zimbabwe Defence Forces disadvantages also prevail though there might be ways of mitigating them. The first disadvantage is that technology is ever changing and there is always a requirement to be in tandem with the latest technological developments. This entails that the security organisation should have the financial capacity to purchase the latest computers each time there are new developments and this may be expensive to sustain. Currently most units are relaying on old computers because the organisation cannot afford to avail the latest computers.
No permanent record may be available for future reference or use if all information or data is stored in computers without any paper work being maintained elsewhere in the event that the computer is destroyed, crush, stolen or documents stored are attacked by virus. Military information is always vital at some time in the future for other persons at different times for different purposes hence the need to preserve it in such a way that it can be accessed. Of late the Zimbabwe National Army administrative department have been receiving claims from former members and dependants of late members on pay and terminal benefits related queries. The organisation have managed to refute some of these claims because there are permanent records in the form of paper in files being kept at the National Archives. Had it been that the information was only kept in computers and they got destroyed by whatever means the organisation might be paying when they should not be. This disadvantage of computers being destroyed or stolen or documents being attacked by virus can be mitigated by storing the same data or information flash disks and external memories. However, this also mean an extra cost to the organisation as the flash disks and external memories need to be purchased.
The other disadvantage of using the computer in security organization like the Zimbabwe Defence Forces is that information of military nature is always classified and there are high chances that it leaks to the unauthorized persons. Once the information is entered in computer system or stored on flash disks and external memories and an authorized person accessed it s/he can see a lot of information within a short space of time. Security breaches in most cases are as a result of unauthorized persons having access to information. This challenge of security breaches can be mitigated by centralization of certain parts or all components of the organization information system. The creation and publication of an Information Security Policy is key to ensuring that information security receives the profile it requires in the organisation and is the first critical step in securing the organisation’s information systems and data. It is important that senior management support the Information Security Policy and that all users are made aware of their roles and responsibilities under this policy. Training of personnel so that they are aware of the cause, ways and dangers of security breaches is also an important aspect that assist to mitigate the problems. Also the computers used for high classified information may have passwords or codes to protect it from threat like unauthorised access or the documents may have passwords known by the user to access them only. Encrypting or coding may be used so that if information is stolen it may not be understood.
Use of computers depend on power supplies. Work within department in Army Headquarters have been affected when there are power cuts. Data or information is lost in the event of abrupt power cut when operating if you do not constantly save. You will be required to start again regardless of whatever you typed. There is need to have a stand-by generator as an alternative source of power.
Information and documents are susceptible to attacks by virus and may be destroyed. This will result in the organization losing valuable information. A computer virus can enter computers or network of the security organisation by USB device, Internet download, visiting an infected website, instant messaging or messaging in social media platforms, file transfer and file sharing programs, or by remote users connecting directly to the organisation network with an infected PC. Once a computer virus gets into a computer/ network it can spread from computer to computer in multiple ways. Given the numerous ways a computer virus can spread the security organisation should ensure that its computers/ network is protected through installation of Anti-Virus Software, ensure that the anti-virus software is up to date, educating all users to be careful of suspicious virus attacks, ensure that all files downloaded from the Internet are scanned for computer viruses before being used, making regular backups of critical data, developing an Information Security Policy among others.
Lastly another disadvantage of personal computers is that they are addictive. Everywhere you go you see people staring into their laptops, and you may wonder, what they are thinking and what they find so hypnotic. Some members are addicted that personal computers are affecting their performance on work and in most cases what they will be doing is not related to their duties or tasks assigned. On the other hand, some people worry that the increasing reliance on computers in our daily lives is beginning to prevent healthy social interactions.
A computer is an electronic digital machine that accepts data and processes it into useful information. They are grouped into microcomputer, minicomputer, mainframe and supercomputer. Computers have both advantages and disadvantages. The main advantages of computers are that Information once entered in computer system it can be easily accessed by the same person or other persons at different times for different purposes, store large volumes of information without occupying too much space among others. The disadvantages among others include that there is no permanent record that may be available for future reference or use in the event that the computer is destroyed or attacked by virus. Security breaches in organizations may also be experienced as personnel have access to classified information on computers. Some of these disadvantages can be mitigated through having Information Security Policy, training, storing data and information back up devices.


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