The Role of Ethics in Developing Professionalism Within the Global ICT Community.

The Role of Ethics in Developing Professionalism Within the Global ICT Community.

Clare Victoria Thornley (Innovation Value Institute, Maynooth University, Maynooth, Ireland), Sinéad Murnane (Innovation Value Institute, Maynooth University, Maynooth, Ireland), Stephen McLoughlin (Edinburgh Business School, Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh, UK), Marian Carcary (Innovation Value Institute, Maynooth University, Maynooth, Ireland), Eileen Doherty (Innovation Value Institute, Maynooth University, Maynooth, Ireland) and Louise Veling (Innovation Value Institute, Maynooth University, Maynooth, Ireland)
DOI: 10.4018/IJHCITP.2018100104
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This article investigates the development of Information Communication Technology (ICT) as a global profession with a specific focus on the role of ethics. It addresses three main issues: to what extent ethics contribute to the development of the professional identity of ICT practitioners; what practices and policies can promote the development of ICT ethics; how these practices and policies can usefully be coordinated internationally. Within the European policy framework, professional ethics is seen as one of the four pillars of ICT professionalism, along with: competences; bodies of knowledge; education and training. A diverse range of international stakeholders were consulted on how to develop and implement ethical frameworks in culturally and economically diverse regions. Findings include the need to: be sensitive to the cultural and economic factors of different regions; integrate work on ethics with other aspects of professionalism; promote multiple types of engagement with professional ethics.
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ICT, and the information it stores and manipulates, is increasingly critical to many services and activities and its failure or lack of optimum performance can have very significant consequences. There are many reasons for such failures and many of them will have some ethical dimension either through malicious intent through hacking, or as an inadvertent effect caused by failure to adequately protect IT systems or develop robust enough systems. The role of human behaviour is often key either at the design phase, or in how ICT systems are used or delivered. Recent work on the role of corruption as a source of e-Government failures (Aladwani, 2016) indicates how complex and global this problem can be. This paper proposes that developing a more coordinated and engaged approach to ICT ethics should be seen as vital part of developing ICT as a profession and that an increased sense of professional identity will foster better ethics (and vice versa). Developing the ethical dimension as part of ICT education and professional practices should contribute to increasing the status and professional identity of those who work in ICT, impacting the quality and integrity of ICT services, and reducing the risks to society of IT failures. Indeed some emerging research has indicated that a high capability of IT use can increase the ethical behaviour of companies, such as the study on the impact of effective use of IT in increased Corporate Social Responsibility in Brazilian SMEs (Malaquias, Malaquias, & Hwang, 2016). As IT becomes more central to high level organisational strategy with the impact of digital transformation, IT professionals need to be highly capable in top leadership roles (Cano, Fernández-Sanz, & Misra, 2013) where ethical awareness becomes more crucial (Singh, Sengupta, & Sharma, 2016).

The current lack of a coherent ethical framework for ICT is in contrast to other professions such as Medicine or Law, which have codes of ethics and possible penalties in place for non-compliance. Within the ICT field there are multiple professional bodies based on particular ICT specialities, some of which have their own codes of ethics, but there is no coordinated approach to ethics taken by the ICT industry as whole. There are also concerns about the extent to which IT education adequately prepares IT professionals for the ethical dimensions of their profession (Al-Saggaf, Burmeister, & Schwartz, 2017) . Additionally, there is very little data about levels of engagement and compliance with various ICT codes of ethics and there is not much known about potential international cooperation in terms of aligning them. Some work has been done within particular areas of ICT such as how practitioners in information security view government initiatives to professionalise their work to reduce cyber threats (Reece & Stahl, 2015). Practitioner views on ethics in ICT work contexts are also examined within the library and information profession (Ferguson, Thornley, & Gibb, 2016). The interest and concern in assisting professionals in actually applying and incorporating ethics into their work practices and processes is growing. Professional bodies in areas related to IT are starting to incorporate ethics into their bodies of knowledge rather than just as ‘stand-alone’ codes. The Project Management Institute (PMI), for example, has included reference to taking ethics into account as part of project planning in their updated PMBOK (section 1.1.3 Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct) (P.M.I., 2017). The IEEE is currently developing a standard (“IEEE P7000 - Model Process for Addressing Ethical Concerns During System Design,” 2018) to develop a process model to assist developers in addressing ethical considerations throughout the various stages of system initiation, analysis and design. These welcome recent developments will start to mitigate the relative sparseness of practical guidance but it is still the case that the bulk of work on IT or computer ethics is within the academic sphere on a conceptual or theoretical level (Floridi, 2013). In this paper we aim to reflect and engage on the actual activity and practice of developing and implementing policy initiatives to improve ethics within the context of increasing the professionalism of ICT with an international perspective.

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