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Abstract

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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Thornley, C., Murnane, S., McLaughlin, S., Carcary, M., Doherty, E., and Veling, L. 2018.
International Journal of Human Capital and Information Technology Professionals (IJHCITP).
2018 9(4) :56-71.
The role of ethics in developing professionalism within the global ICT
community.
Clare Thornley (Innovation Value Institute)
Clare.thornley@mu.ie
Sinéad Murnane (Innovation Value Institute)
Stephen McLaughlin (Heriot Watt University)
Marian Carcary (Innovation Value Institute)
Eileen Doherty (Innovation Value Institute)
Louise Veling (Innovation Value Institute)
Key words: Ethics, ICT professionalism, information ethics, codes of ethics, e-Skills, European
Union, internationalisation, professional education.
Abstract
This paper reports on a series of research and policy development projects investigating the
development of Information Communication Technology (ICT) as a 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, the others being: competences; bodies
of knowledge; education and training. A diverse range of international stakeholders were
consulted over a period of four years. The challenges of agreeing on what it means to be an
ICT Professional and the best way to develop and implement ethical frameworks in culturally
and economically diverse regions are discussed. 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; and promote multiple types of engagement with professional
ethics.
Introduction
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 (Sherry, Carcary, McLaughlin, & O’Brien, 2013). There are many reasons for IT
failures and some of them will have an ethical dimension either through malicious intent
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Thornley, C., Murnane, S., McLaughlin, S., Carcary, M., Doherty, E., and Veling, L. 2018.
International Journal of Human Capital and Information Technology Professionals (IJHCITP).
2018 9(4) :56-71.
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 a 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.
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) . ICT also seems to be lag
behind in terms of research on its professional ethics. A recent bibliometric study (Weiss,
2017) shows that in the last 30 years, research articles on ethics in top IT or IS journals are
less common than those in equivalent journals from other professions.
Additionally, there is limited 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 and the efficacy or otherwise of codes of ethics are also examined within the library
and information profession (Ferguson, Thornley, & Gibb, 2016). A study to examine the
effects of stricter legal controls and penalties for unethical use of supply chain bidding IT
systems in the workplace (Charki, Josserand, & Boukef, 2017) found that effects were very
mixed. In some instances, strict legal controls improved behaviour but it could also
encourage efforts to find new methods of IT use to escape detection or in some cases a
simple reaction of just stopping using particular IT systems.
Perhaps as a response to the challenges of actually implementing ethics in the ICT
profession, there is growing interest and concern in assisting professionals in applying and
incorporating ethics into their work practices and processes. Professional bodies in areas
related to IT are starting to incorporate ethics into their bodies of knowledge rather than just
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Thornley, C., Murnane, S., McLaughlin, S., Carcary, M., Doherty, E., and Veling, L. 2018.
International Journal of Human Capital and Information Technology Professionals (IJHCITP).
2018 9(4) :56-71.
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.
This paper develops previous research on developing ICT as a profession through recent
European Commission funded research projects (Sherry, Carcary, McLaughlin, & O’Brien,
2013; Husing et al., 2013; McLaughlin et al., 2012; van der Linden et al., 2017) whose aim
was to provide evidence informed policy guidance on developing ICT as a profession and
thus ensuring agreed ethical and professional standards of practice. The initial design of the
research was also presented at a conference (Thornley et al., 2016)and this paper develops
that work and uses the feedback from participants to further refine its focus. The research
questions examined in this paper are as follows:
RQ.1: To what extent do ethics contribute to the development of the professional identity of
ICT practitioners?
RQ.2: What practices and policies can promote the development of and engagement with ICT
ethics?
RQ.3: To what extent can these practices and policies be usefully coordinated
internationally?
The key contribution of this paper is to provide an analysis of the challenges in developing
ethics within ICT and possible policy and practice responses as identified by a range of
international stakeholders, including practitioners, professional bodies, employers, and
educators. It is an informative example of developing ethics within a profession and
addressing the challenge of gaining engagement from practitioners on a global level.
Theoretical Base
The theoretical context in which this discussion of ICT ethics takes place is informed by work
on professionalism and ethics, and the relationship between them. The original motivation
of this research was to provide guidance to policy makers and practitioners involved in ICT
rather than to develop a theoretical understanding per se. This research originated from a
wider agenda at the EU policy level to investigate and address a practical problem
concerning the fragmented and under-developed nature of the ICT profession, of which
ethics is key component, and the associated difficulties relating to economic growth and the
potential risk of ICT failures.
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Thornley, C., Murnane, S., McLaughlin, S., Carcary, M., Doherty, E., and Veling, L. 2018.
International Journal of Human Capital and Information Technology Professionals (IJHCITP).
2018 9(4) :56-71.
Ethics
The theoretical approach to ethics taken in this study was a pragmatic consequentialist
approach based on the perceived value of its positive outcomes rather than a principle/rule-
based or virtue-driven approach. This was derived from the stakeholders involved for whom
ICT ethics is primarily a practical problem to solve. Another factor in adopting this pragmatic
approach is that the ICT profession is very diverse and operates internationally, so different
cultural norms and attitudes need to be taken into account, rather than developing a rigid
approach. Approaches to privacy, for example, can vary between different cultures and
regions (Mijuskovic & Ferati, 2016). Our work does not, however, reflect a simple cultural
relativism. Although core ethical principles were generally agreed by all stakeholders within
this research, the details of how best to implement ethics and encourage understanding and
take up are likely vary, to an extent, from region to region.
Guidelines and codes of ethics exists for most ICT professional associations but
implementation for practitioners can be challenging in the complexity of the workplace
(Ferguson et al., 2016). In some cases, within IT, interactive codes and guidelines have been
developed to make codes easier to use and apply (Campos & Amaral, 2010). International
Standards and Bodies of Knowledge can also provide some guidance but it can be
challenging to identify the most relevant sections and how they apply to IT so further
interpretation can be necessary. In terms of the international standard ISO 26000 Social
Responsibility’, research has been done on highlighting to IT professionals how to identify
the core subjects of ISO 26000 relevant for their organisations and thus behave in more
ethical manner by taking actions towards sustainability (Zompras & Siakas, 2015).
There are a number of specific challenges in developing ethics within the ICT profession. In
the first instance, ICT is pervasive in many jobs and roles and there is no clear agreement
whether ICT is distinctive and cohesive enough to be ‘a profession’ in the standard sense.
This may mean that a standardised ethics protocol is unlikely to be workable (Weckert &
Lucas, 2013). Secondly there are also cultural and geographical differences in approaches to
ICT and information management (X. Sherry, 2013)that impact on ethical issues (Kirs &
Bagchi, 2012).
Culture is also an issue on an organisational level as ICT exists in a range of organisations,
including the public and private sectors, and SMEs. These can have very different value sets
and cultural expectations as is discussed in recent work on the specific issues in aligning ICT
ethics with public service ethics in the Canadian context (Kernaghan, 2014). In the case of
public service there can also be a statutory as well as ethical imperative to, for example,
provide a universal service for interacting with the state to citizens who may not have the
necessary digital skills or technology. This may be in conflict with other imperatives, such as
the efficient use of public funds, so there is no straightforward answer to deciding the most
ethical approach to take.
Thirdly, the rapid rate of technological change in ICT means new ethical challenges tend to
emerge more quickly than appropriate guidelines can be developed. Examples of such
dilemmas include privacy issues arising from big data (Martin, 2015) or the tensions between
efficiency and user preferences in RFID technology (Thornley, Ferguson, Weckert, & Gibb,
2011).
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Thornley, C., Murnane, S., McLaughlin, S., Carcary, M., Doherty, E., and Veling, L. 2018.
International Journal of Human Capital and Information Technology Professionals (IJHCITP).
2018 9(4) :56-71.
Finally, in most regions, women and minority groups are underrepresented in the ICT
profession (Iclaves, 2013), which some participants in our research considered to be an issue
of social justice that the ICT profession has an ethical imperative to address. There have
been a number of international efforts to increase the number of women entering ICT
courses and careers with varying degrees of impact (Miliszewska & Moore, 2010).
Professionalism
The centrality, or otherwise, of ethics in ICT professionalism has been much discussed
(Weckert & Lucas, 2013). There is also long historical debate, or indeed controversy, as
observed by (Cogan, 1955) and more recently by (Saks, 2012), about the nature of
professionalism itself. This has discussed in the literature with regard to the established
professions in the Victorian context (Chua & Poullaos, 1993) and has also been highlighted
as an issue with the ‘newer’ professions such as education (Eraut, 1994). The status of a
profession has been taken to imply the ability to self-regulate on ethical matters but this is
becoming less tenable as public trust in institutions and professions weakens (Eraut, 1994).
Within the European Union policy arena the professionalization of IT has been a policy
priority since the early 2000s with a number of projects and initiatives taken to mature IT as
a profession (Sherry, Carcary, McLaughlin, & O’Brien, 2013). Research by McLaughlin et al.
(2012) developed a model of ICT professionalism within the European context, from an
analysis of the literature (Agresti, 2008; Denning & Frailey, 2011), and input from
stakeholders collected through surveys and interviews. This model consists of four building
blocks which are: competences; education and training; bodies of knowledge; and
professional ethics.
This paper presents data on stakeholders experiences of the professional ethics building
block to inform the holistic development of all of the building blocks of the profession.
Within our research, the role of ethics should be understood as part of a wider debate about
what makes an effective ICT professional, which can further help ensure that ICT is used and
managed in ways that benefit, rather than potentially damage, society.
Methods
Research Questions
The research questions, as detailed in the introduction, were developed through analysis of
the literature and previous research on ICT professionalism, in which stakeholders had
consistently identified ethics as a key component of developing ICT as a profession. This
paper focuses on the input and debate around ethics though in many cases, as will be clear
from some of our findings, the question of ethics needs to be closely coordinated with other
professionalism issues such as education.
A qualitative research approach was adopted within this study as this is widely regarded as
the most appropriate approach for studying a wide range of social dimensions, while
maintaining contextual focus (Mason, 2002). Primary data were collected through a series of
group and individual engagements between March 2014 and January 2017.
We first collected data from participants during a two-day international workshop on ‘e-
Skills and ICT Professionalism’, organised by the European Commission (EC) in March 2014.
The workshop, similar in nature to a focus group discussion, was part of an EC funded
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Thornley, C., Murnane, S., McLaughlin, S., Carcary, M., Doherty, E., and Veling, L. 2018.
International Journal of Human Capital and Information Technology Professionals (IJHCITP).
2018 9(4) :56-71.
research project ‘e-Skills: the international dimension and impact of globalisation’
(McLaughlin et al., 2014), which was investigating the global nature of the ICT
professionalism and how this should inform the initiative to mature the profession. The aim
of this workshop was to collect information and viewpoints on the nature of ICT
professionalism at a global level and to look at possibilities for global cooperation to increase
the effectiveness of local level responses.
In preparation for the workshop all participants were asked to collate data and input from
other stakeholders from their own countries on key ICT professionalism challenges and
issues, and use this data to guide their workshop presentations. As such, for the purposes of
this research, the members of the group were considered to represent the views of range of
organisations from their country. The questions focused on the development of the four
pillars of ICT professionalism already identified in previous research, i.e. ethics;
competences; education and training; and bodies of knowledge.
A follow up conference call with the workshop participants and other international
stakeholders was held in April 2014 and have been ongoing on an approximately quarterly
basis since then. The most recent face-to-face dataset was gathered at an international
conference on e-Skills held in December 2016 (van der Linden et al., 2017) during a panel
discussion where experts contributed their views on progress on ICT ethics and the
subsequent open discussion. We have also maintained regular contact with the workshop
participants and international representatives from related organisations in the field of ICT
Professionalism. This has ensured any new developments over the intervening period are
fully reflected in the findings presented in this paper.
Data sources
The primary data analysed in this research came from a number of key sources:
International workshop
Content of each e-skills stakeholder presentation on e-skills in their specific locale
Qualitative data captured from discussion amongst key stakeholders throughout the
course of the 2-day workshop
Qualitative data captured from discussion amongst key stakeholders during follow up
conference calls
Conference calls and one to one calls
Updates provided by stakeholders regarding new developments in ICT
professionalism in their regions
Ethics panel discussion
Preparatory notes from participants
Qualitative data captured from discussion amongst key stakeholders at ethics panel
discussion at e-skills conference
Research participants
Although it is not possible to avoid bias completely in participant selection, strenuous efforts
were made to ensure that only expert contributors to the ICT professional domain were
invited. Participants were also from ICT professional or government organisations and, as
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International Journal of Human Capital and Information Technology Professionals (IJHCITP).
2018 9(4) :56-71.
such, represented a diverse range of members and stakeholders rather than the interests of
particular companies or institutions. They were also asked to bring data and viewpoints from
other stakeholders in their respective regions to provide as thorough a representation as
possible.
International workshop and follow on calls
The participants of the international workshop were key international stakeholders from
professional associations, industry bodies and government institutions selected through
purposeful sampling. They were selected through an examination of key contributors in the
ICT professionalism debate internationally and to ensure the widest geographical spread
possible. In advance of final decisions being made on participants, all potential participants
were engaged in a conference call to ensure the appropriate level of potential input and that
the correct personnel from the organisation had been selected. Finally, the participants had
to be approved by the European Commission.
In total there were 17 participants: the geographical distribution and the nature of their
respective organisations are detailed in Table 1. While efforts were made to include the
most international representation possible, it is acknowledged that more developed
countries are represented than developing countries. All expenses were reimbursed for
participants but it is accepted that other barriers do exist to a fuller global participation and
this is an acknowledged weakness of our data. One possible explanation came from the
South African participants who noted that in Africa, for example, many other developmental
and ethical issues were more of a priority than those of ICT professionalism.
Country
Participant Organisation
European Perspective
European Commission
Innovation Value Institute (IVI)
Empirica Research Ltd
Council of European Professional Informatics Societies
(CEPIS)
Australia
Australian Computer Society
Brazil
Brazilian Association of Information Technology and
Communication Companies (BRASCOMM)
Canada
Information and Communications Technology Council
Chile
Asociacion Chilena de Empresas de Tecnologia de
Informacion A.G (ACTI) [The Chilean Association for IT
Companies]
Japan
Information-Technology Promotion Agency (IPA)
Malaysia
Malaysia Knowledge Workers Development Centre (MSC)
Russia
Lomonosov Moscow State University, Faculty of
Computational Mathematics and Cybernetics (CMC MSU)
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ICT Skills Workshop Chair (204), Russian National Body of
Standardization Technical Committees «Information
Technology» (TC-ITC-22)
South Africa
Ikamva National eSkills
[not present at the e-skills workshop but attended follow-
up conference call]
International
perspective, inc. USA
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer
Society (IEEE CS)
Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Table 1: Participation in Workshop and Calls by country/region
Ethics Panel Discussion
The Ethics panel discussion was a panel session during an international conference on e-
Skills, held in Brussels in December 2016 (van der Linden et al., 2017). Four invited experts,
as detailed in Table 2, presented different aspects and perspectives on ethical issues in
relation to the development of an ICT Profession, before answering questions from the floor.
In a similar way to the international workshop participants these were acknowledged
leaders in the ICT Professionalism field. All participants to the conference were also on an
invitation only basis to ensure that only knowledgeable experts from a representative range
of organisations attended.
Country
Participant Organisation
Europe
Council of European Professional Informatics Societies (CEPIS)
UK
University of Greenwich
Spain
Mind Your Privacy group
The Netherlands
CIO Platform Nederland
Table 2: Participation in Ethics Panel by country/region
Methods of analysis.
The qualitative data from workshops, calls and the conference was captured by two
researchers who compared and validated their data to ensure completeness and accuracy.
After all interactions, all participants were also contacted to update any policy initiatives
they had discussed at the event and to validate the transcription/interpretation. Using the
respondent validation technique (Bryman & Bell, 2015) specific research findings were
returned to relevant participants for their comments and to ensure clarity. This data was
then analysed using qualitative coding techniques (Mostyn, 1985), which resulted in the
identification of key concepts/themes. Comparative analysis and iterative reflection on the
emerging codes/themes (Alvesson & Sköldberg, 2010) supported development of insights in
relation to the key findings. In terms of representing the proportional range of the views of
the various participant a numerical percentage approach was not taken as a wide range of
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International Journal of Human Capital and Information Technology Professionals (IJHCITP).
2018 9(4) :56-71.
views were discussed and levels of agreement does not necessarily indicate importance,
particularly given the relatively small number of participants. This is in line with qualitative
method guidance on similar studies (Walsham, 1993). We have, however, highlighted when
there was almost complete agreement or considerable disagreement as this does provide
some broad indication of the current state of the debate.
Findings
In this section the findings relating to each key research question are reviewed based on the
full range of data sources.
RQ.1 To what extent do ethics contribute to the development of the professional
identity of ICT practitioners?
A clear majority of participants at the workshop agreed that ethics was a very important
issue for the ICT profession but also a difficult one to address. Despite the initial pragmatic
framing of the research, many participants evoked a principled stance based on duties and
their own professional identity when questioned on ethics in ICT. A key difficulty, however, is
that different countries, and indeed sectors, have different definitions or views on what
constitutes an ICT professional. So, in terms of analysing the role that ethics contribute to
the professional identity of ICT professionals, there is a challenge in that there is no
universally accepted, clear, and formalised view on what an ICT professional actually is.
Indeed, there is no universal consensus that it should be seen as a profession. As was
observed at the panel discussion, ICT ethics cannot be totally tied to a universal concept of
professionalism, as we cannot assume all countries see ICT as a profession and we need to
remember that some do not!.
Related to this challenge, there are very few barriers to entry to the ICT profession, with
many people working in the field being self-taught or without formal qualification. In
general, employers look for someone who has experience and are less concerned about
qualifications and certification; but this can have implications if people are writing code for
safety critical applications. Disagreement about how to address this without being overly
restrictive can be make it very challenging to get agreement within the ICT Profession about
how ethics can or should be included in the concept of an ICT Professional because the
concept itself is uncertain.
This does remain an ongoing challenge for ICT and as one participant at the ethics panel
noted, some ICT professionals may see ethics either as a pillar of their profession or as
more of a pillory which cannot be taken seriously.
There were also differing views as to whether the standard view of a profession, as for
example in Medicine or Law, could really be usefully applied to ICT. As discussed, however, it
was felt strongly that most practitioners working in ICT did have a sense of professionalism
as regards their particular role but did not perhaps feel part of wider professional circle. A
strong sentiment from all the participants from whom we gathered data was that ICT is so
pervasive that it was very challenging to develop usable universal ethical guidelines.
All workshop participants, for example, agreed that ICT professionals may well have played a
contributory role in the banking crisis in 2008, but their responsibility vis à vis those working
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in the business functions was difficult to establish. In many cases ICT professionals are
outside the circle of power in organisations, partly as a result of the lack of professional
status, and do not have the authority to call a halt to unethical practices that rely on ICT.
Does responsibility just end with the requirement to ensure that the IT system is secure and
effective? Or does an ICT professional also have some responsibility for the potential uses
ethical and unethical to which even a sound system may be put?
Within what can be termed the ICT profession there are many different areas of work
including creating systems and products as well as implementing and guiding their use in
organisations. The perspective of the systems developer was highlighted at the ethics panel
in terms of the pressure to get new products to market first, which was often stronger than
the desire to make the product correct or secure. The relationship between the developer or
vendor of an ICT product and the user was seen as complex in terms of ethical responsibility.
There is not only the question of ethics in system design, but also a separate, albeit related,
question of ethical use of the system. Within the Netherlands the professional ICT
association, CIO Platform Nederlands, had developed a code of conduct to help clarify the
relationship between vendors and those that buy the products to increase transparency but
it was felt this could certainly not be imposed on vendors. Their conclusion was that “both
sides of the market will need to step up and ethics will be a large part in that. We need a new
set of ethics to guide us in this relationship.
The growth in contract based work and increased job insecurity was seen to make this more
of a problem in terms of silencing whistle blowers. This shows that the ethical behaviour of
any profession or role cannot be understood in isolation from what could be argued as the
ethical context of their employment situation. The growth of data science is an issue which
has gained prominence since our initial data collection in 2014. During the 2016 ethics panel
discussion, one participant raised the problem that requests for use of data could be
compliant but still borderline when it comes to data ethical issues”. Suggestions to address
this included clear escalation mechanisms when employees felt uncomfortable and perhaps
an external body such as an ethics board who could consider these cases.
The question of what counts as an ethical issue for ICT was also raised, though there were
different views on this at the workshop, and no final consensus from participants. Currently,
for example, women and minority groups are underrepresented in ICT roles but is this a
pragmatic employment market issue or a wider one of inclusion and balance in terms of
equitable access to well-paid and stimulating careers? Does the ICT profession have a role
to play in terms of integrating people into employment and wider society through working in
ICT? ICT’s potential to overcome barriers to employment in terms of, for example, disability
and distance, could certainly contribute to creating a fairer, more accessible employment
market, and it perhaps has a clearer potential role to play in this area than some more
established professions.
It was agreed by all countries represented at the workshop that some kind of internationally
agreed definition of an ICT professional, which also clearly explained the different types of
roles it involved, would be very useful. This would enable more effective comparison
internationally and enable initiatives on ethics to have clear target audience. It would also
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enable more accurate tracking of the gender, age, and demographic profile of ICT workers,
to identify which groups are currently underrepresented.
RQ.2 What practices and policies can promote the development of and engagement
with ICT ethics?
The difficulties associated with defining and delineating ethical responsibility in the
integrated and diffuse roles of ICT, which often supports rather than leads organisational
activities, is particularly challenging. Participants’ experiences at the workshop of addressing
such issues varied considerably. There were, however, a number of interesting examples of
successful practices and policies, detailed in this section, some of which begin to show
progress in integrating ethics as an essential part of other pillars of ICT professionalism, i.e.
education and training; bodies of knowledge; and competences. A key insight that came
from a participant at the international workshop was that for progress in ICT professionalism
to happen we needed to see these as not pillars but bodily organs that need to work
together”.
Education and continuing professional development (CPD) were seen by all workshop
participants as a potentially crucial mechanism for strengthening practitioners’ engagement
with ethics from the outset, although some countries are far more developed in this area
than others. In Canada, for example, ethics are integrated into the ICT curriculum. In
Malaysia an assessment tool had been developed known as ‘i-Citizen’ that evaluates ICT
ethics awareness and is being rolled out through the education system including at primary
level.
There were interesting dilemmas raised in one follow on conference call relating to “what
not to teach” in terms of ethics. For example, on an information security module it was felt
important to teach enough to allow students to prevent malicious cyber security attacks but
there was an obligation not to inadvertently teach them how to mount such an attack. This
was felt to be a complex area with difficult boundaries and, unlike in a workplace, where
employees can be vetted and trust developed over years, university students were normally
admitted to a course simply on their academic results.
Related to integrating ethics into education is the question of integrating ethics into ICT
Bodies of Knowledge (BoK). The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), for
example, is planning to include a chapter on ethics in the revised Enterprise ICT BoK
(“EITBOK,” 2018)which will be based on the IEEE code of ethics and other reference material.
The future plan is to then map curricula to this revised BoK so that ethics will also become
integrated into education. This point was further expanded at the ethics panel discussion as
a way to avoid the tendency for ethics to be seen as a purely restrictive rather than enabling
activity. As it was put by one participant at the panel IT professionals are often accused of
being the people that put NO in technology”. It was proposed that the use of ethics
frameworks can provide a shared understanding and basis for discussion around ethics,
which can be especially important in such a globalised profession. The aim would be for
questions such as ‘what are the unforeseen implications?’ or ‘should we do this?’ to have a
reference guide to inform debate.
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The IEEE is also starting to develop a new set of standards, whose proposed scope is to
establish a process model by which engineers and technologists can address ethical
considerations throughout the various stages of system initiation, analysis, and design. The
expected Process Requirements include: The Management and Engineering View of New IT
Product Development; Computer Ethics and IT System Design; Value-Sensitive Design; and
Stakeholder Involvement in Ethical IT System Design. These initiatives involving education
and bodies of knowledge are examples of how ethics are being explicitly integrated into the
other pillars of ICT professionalism. Integration and mapping of ICT bodies of knowledge,
occupational profiles and competence frameworks (Fernández-Sanz, Gómez-Pérez, &
Castillo-Martínez, 2017) has recently been further developed which has the potential to
further assist efforts to integrate ethics. A current project (van der Linden, 2017) also
focuses on integrating organisational frameworks with skills frameworks with further
potential for ‘mainstreaming’ ethics.
Professional associations are also doing some interesting work in making ethical guidelines
more adaptable and easy to use by professionals. Within the EU, the Council of European
Professional Informatics Societies (CEPIS), for example, has done some work using stories
and other tools to facilitate discussion and development of ethical understanding (“CEPIS
Ethics,” 2017). CEPIS has also just established a Special Interest Network on Professional
Ethics, with a focus on the practical supports that are needed by professionals and
professional bodies. The Spanish ICT professional body the Spanish Informatics Engineering
Council has made significant progress in developing an accepted code of ethics in
collaborative fashion with members using a questionnaire to gather information on member
priorities. The details of this were discussed in follow up calls and it was explained that they
had delayed work on this initiative until a more agreed European wide approach in the form
of the CEPIS guidelines was in place to inform their plans. A key aim for their work on ethics
is to unify the current diverse regional codes and the codes for different sections of the ICT
profession, e.g. forensics, software development. This demonstrates the value that is seen in
a coordinated and planned approach to developing ethics within the ICT profession.
Similarly, the Australian Computer Society (ACS) has developed extensive ethics case studies
to show the relevance of ethics in various ICT professional contexts (“ACS Code of
Professional Conduct Case Studies,” 2014) and earlier versions of these have been
favourably reviewed and deemed relevant for related professions (Ferguson, Salmond, Al-
Saggaf, Bowern, & Weckert, 2005). The ACS’s own evaluation of these case studies have
shown increased interest and involvement in ethical issues within the profession and
positive feedback was given on this work by the Australian representative at the workshop.
The issue of penalties for non-compliance or restrictions to practice were felt by most
workshop participants to be appropriate in certain safety critical or sensitive areas such as
healthcare or aerospace as the implications of failure can potentially be catastrophic often
literally a matter of life or death. A ‘licence to practice’ is used in many professions as a
safeguard that only professionals who have studied, been certified, and adhere to certain
professional and ethical standards are allowed to practice. This was also mentioned in the
panel discussion, outlining the current situation of a voluntary sign up to a code of ethics
when (and if) ICT professionals join their relevant professional association but this is typically
about 5-10% of ICT professionals in most countries. It was felt by one expert from the panel
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that “the voluntary sign-up, which brings with it an ethical code of conduct, is not actually
really delivering for us”.
A participant from the floor during the panel discussion, however, outlined an initiative in
the Netherlands where the Dutch Computer Society had started an initiative to let ICT
professionals take an ‘ICT vow’ on ethics and a recent targeting of a large hacking conference
had resulted in many young people taking this vow. This led to a discussion about the
relative role and importance of the organisation and the individual in ethics. It was felt that
this did have to be top down in terms of a clear message of ‘this is how we do things in our
organisation’ but that also an individual personal commitment was important and that oaths
and vows could play a role here in reminding and reinforcing the importance of ethical
behaviour. There was some agreement between participants that this could be encouraged
and that organisations could advertise the fact that their staff had taken such an oath and
that this may influence people choosing their business. Indeed, there was a strong belief
that consumer demand for more ethical transparency in organisations would signal the value
of ethical practices to organisations, who would in turn encourage and promote these
ethical practices, thereby driving quicker behavioural change.
Throughout all the interactions with participants in the different engagements a strong
message emerged that the varied nature of ICT makes implementing and enforcing a
certification or ‘licence to practice’ highly problematic. In fact, most participants reported
that there had been strong resistance to any proposals for licencing of the ICT profession in
their country. In Malaysia, for example, an initiative to develop a Board of Computing
Professionals Malaysia was originally planned to be developed through a formal Act of
Parliament. Following consultation with the various stakeholders, however, it was decided to
go down the route of an Association which is recognised by the Government instead of an
Act of Parliament. The formal legal recognition of professional licensing was seen as
unworkable by the ICT profession itself.
This view was echoed in the ethics panel where one participant said that enforced licencing
would only make the problems of ICT recruitment even more serious and be unworkable
because of pressure due to the shortage of skills in the industry and effort involved in
licensing. It was also acknowledged that there was a lack of robust research to support the
view that licensed or certified ICT professionals actually did perform better than those that
were not. In the discussion it was also argued that being a licensed professional did provide
confidence in a person’s competence, commitment to the profession, CPD and ethics. As an
ICT profession we do need to ask ourselves how much longer society will tolerate big ICT
project failures resulting from (for example) poorly written or incompatible code. This was
summarised neatly by one panel expert: we have a duty of care to the public”.
RQ.3 To what extent can these practices and policies be usefully coordinated
internationally?
Ethics was agreed to be a very important issue by all participants we engaged with, however,
an agreed international code of ethics was not seen as a realistic option at this stage. CEPIS,
the European body for ICT professionals, had recently published guidelines on developing
codes of ethics, which are discussed in a recent European Commission report (van der
Linden et al., 2017). These guidelines addressed what should be included in a code of ethics
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and why, however, this was to encourage broad consistency across Europe rather than to
prescribe a universal code.
Different countries and professional associations have their own codes and it was also
agreed by all that in some particularly sensitive contexts, e.g. ICT in health, ethics should be
more strictly regulated. Ethics is a challenging area for ICT and, at present, there would
appear to be no clear consensus on the best way forward. There are also important
differences about who should take responsibility for ethics. In Japan, for example, a ‘code of
ethics’ is typically developed by companies independently and signed off by their employees.
This takes place within the Japanese tradition of career long service to one employer. In such
in Europe, the USA and Australia, however, codes of ethics are more likely to originate from
nationally coordinated professional bodies.
One suggestion that came out the Ethics Advisory Group of the European Data Protection
Supervisor Ethics Advisory Board, as highlighted by one of the panellists, was to learn from
other labelling and certification initiatives, such as food traceability. European coordination
in terms of labelling traceable software could be one way ahead. It was felt that any
initiative of this sort would at least require European coordination to be workable.
Another important difference was the level of development of the different countries. From
the perspective of participants from South Africa the ICT professionalism debate needed to
be seen as part of the wider developmental context. Africa also faces a range of different
social issues which pose additional challenges and are perhaps higher up the ethical agenda
than discussing ICT professional ethics. When tackling the challenge on a global basis, it
should be remembered that the fundamental problem of providing primary and secondary
education for all the children in the world has not been solved. Political instability can also
slow down progress and this had happened with work on a shared competency framework
in Africa. Similarly, the enormous political transitions that have occurred over the last 25
years in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union are also still having effects on the
nature of ICT professionalism in those countries.
Whether the under representation of women and minorities was counted as a priority issue
within the developing ICT profession also varied. The position of women in society, cultural
expectations, and employment structures provided for mothers who wish to continue
working in ICT was one factor. In the former Eastern bloc countries, women were generally
equally represented in the ICT profession and there was little understanding from these
regions as to how this could not be the case for the rest of the world.
The research shows that stakeholders see some policy responses as being necessarily global,
whilst some are perhaps better tackled on a national level. Even at a national level, some
countries, for example the USA and Australia, have challenges in implementing a unified ICT
professionalism policy due to the localised nature of some service provision such as
education. Table 3, summarises the relevant policy responses.
Challenge
Response
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Low take up and use
of ethical guidelines
Creating tools to facilitate learning and show
relevance
Integrating ethics into ICT education
Teaching ICT ethics prior to third level
education
Integrating ethics into Bodies of Knowledge
and competence/skills frameworks
Table 3: National response to implementing ethical guidelines
This can make changes difficult to implement quickly, which is a particular problem in such a
fast moving field as ICT. There is a tension between developing a rapid policy response based
on international level expertise whilst also maintaining relevance and acceptance at a more
local level. As part of the international project conference calls, one participant from South
Africa argued that coordinated strategies are necessary rather than disjointed interventions
that go nowhere.
Implications and Discussion
This study provides some insights into the complexity of ethics within the ICT profession but
its implications are much wider. ICT is now so pervasive that the distinctions and indeed,
the overlaps between ICT ethics and, for example, medical or business ethics are likely to
become more blurred. Information, often in a specialised expert form, is an essential
component of what a profession is, and increasingly this information will be manipulated
and used by complex and ubiquitous ICT systems. Thus, it is essential for all professions that
there is a clear understanding of the ethical dimensions of ICT.
It also shows that developing ethics in the abstract may be relatively straightforward; for
example, many professional ICT bodies already have codes of ethics. Ensuring full
engagement from practitioners, combined with the empowerment to act on such codes,
however, was not seen as straightforward by participants. This viewpoint has been well
documented in previous research (Healy & Iles, 2002). The tension and the relationship
between compliance and ethics that was raised during this work has also been discussed in
previous work (Ferguson et al., 2016) on the viewpoints of practitioners in terms of
professional ethics. Our findings on the potentially unforeseen and negative effects of
stricter regulation, for example in terms of the certification of ICT professionals, reflects
similar findings to work on the mixed effects of increased penalties for unethical ICT use
(Charki et al., 2017).
Finally, no efforts to improve ethics in the workplace can now ignore the global context, but
this study of ICT ethics demonstrates that this global view also presents new challenges of
coordination and possible cultural conflict. In terms of effective policy response, our findings
reflect other work on the need for reliable data and the complexities involved (Merkofer &
Murphy, 2009), as well as the need to take on board cultural differences (X. Sherry, 2013).
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The differences between countries and areas in terms of levels of development, language,
and political contexts do matter, both in the global sense and within Europe. In terms of
global development, for some regions other issues apart from ICT professionalism will
currently take priority, as some more basic infrastructural issues need to be solved first.
Despite these differences, there is strong desire both to learn about effective practices from
other countries, and to cooperate on initiatives that require a global response. It was agreed
by all participants that addressing the challenges around ICT professionalism is a social and
economic imperative, which will enable the positive effects of technology to be realised for
international benefit.
Ethics does seem to be central to the concept of being an ICT professional for many people
working in ICT, though there is no unified view on what this means exactly, as the concept of
ICT professionalism itself appears to be a somewhat imprecise concept. This finding reflects
an ongoing topic of debate in IT or computer ethics on which there is still no clear
agreement (Weckert & Lucas, 2013). An important contribution of this research is showing
how the lack of a definition as to what counts as an ‘ICT professional’ is a serious inhibitor in
both collecting accurate data and allowing valid international comparisons to be made.
Participants felt that this also extended to the real practical difficulties of defining ICT roles
when ICT is increasingly ubiquitous through different organisational functions and sectors.
This also reflects the problem of effectively incorporating ICT ethics into professions or
sectors that already have clear ethical guidelines (Kernaghan, 2014). There remains an
acknowledged tension between overly defining roles to provide clarity whilst still
maintaining the flexibility and complex skill set needed for most ICT careers.
In some cases, initiatives to attract women and girls, for example, had focused on the broad
reach of ICT careers to include health and creative industries, etc. Overly rigid definitions of
ICT professionalism could therefore hinder these efforts. This is reflected in concerns about
being overly prescriptive about ethics and thereby creating unusably rigid guidelines. These
concerns regarding the tensions within professionalism and ethics are also reflected in the
literature (Brady, 2009; Weckert & Lucas, 2013). Acknowledging and successfully managing
these tensions will be central to developing useful and workable ethical guidelines for ICT
professionalism.
Conclusions
The pertinent actions to be taken, or relevant conclusions to be drawn, from this research
will vary between different stakeholders. In terms of what it means for people working
within ICT who are concerned about ICT ethics and ICT professionalism in general, it suggests
that active engagement with the relevant ICT professional bodies at a national (and possibly
international) level is a useful course of action. These complex issues can only be successfully
worked upon at a policy level if as many different views and perspectives from the ICT
profession are taken on board, both to more accurately formulate the problem and to
develop workable solutions. Cooperation with those supporting ICT professionals such as HR
professionals and education professionals will also be important to improve outcomes.
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In terms of global and national policy makers coordinating policies, in consultation with the
relevant professional bodies, would appear to be key whilst acknowledging that important
cultural differences do exist. Even though each of the represented economic regions
identified with the same core issues, the respective journeys they had embarked upon were
different in terms of their starting point, focus, and how far they’ve progressed. Although
the core issues are well understood at a global level, the required solutions need to consider
local, cultural, economic, educational, and legislative issues.
The need for closer collaboration between the economic regions was identified, so as to
ensure best and appropriate practices are identified and shared effectively. Contrarily, to
ensure these solutions are effectively implemented, a ‘bottom-up’ approach looks likely to
them to be the most effective. This will necessitate the support and inclusion of all triple
helix stakeholders (academia, government, and industry) in identifying how best to engage
and work together. A key challenge is in identifying representative bodies for both industry
and academia who have the authority and resolve to develop working solutions to the
ethical challenges surrounding the ICT profession.
Our research provides some new insights into how some key stakeholders perceive the
nature of this challenge and their views on useful policy responses at both a national and
international level. Developing effective and meaningful ethical guidelines and practices for
those working in ICT is a global problem which is currently being worked on by many
committed stakeholders but progress will require long term persistence and wider
engagement.
Funding
The ICT Professionalism policy projects on which this research is based were made possible
by funding from the European Commission.
The international workshop was funded as part of the ‘e-Skills: the international dimension
and the impact of globalisation’ project funded by the European Commission, reference
198/PP/ENT/CIP/12/C/N01C023
The panel discussion at the conference was part of ‘The Development and Implementation of
a European Framework for IT Professionalism’ project funded by the European Commission,
reference, EASME/COSME/2014/012
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Practices Applied in IT Companies. International Journal of Human Capital and
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... While the ICT field has a plethora of professional bodies, each with their own ethical guidelines, the voluntary nature of these organizations limits the effectiveness and reach of proposed standards and guidelines (Stahl et al., 2013). Not only does ethical noncompliance have no repercussions in ICT, there is also a lack of educational preparedness in ethical issues for aspiring professionals (Thornley et al., 2018). ...
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Digital identity (eID) systems are a crucial piece in the digital services ecosystem. They connect individuals to a variety of socioeconomic opportunities but can also reinforce power asymmetries between organizations and individuals. Data collection practices can negatively impact an individual’s right to privacy, autonomy, and self-determination. Protecting individual rights, however, may be at odds with imperatives of profit maximization or national security. The use of eID technologies is hence highly contested. Current approaches to governing eID systems have been unable to fully address the trade-offs between the opportunities and risks associated with these systems. The responsible innovation (RI) literature provides a set of principles to govern disruptive innovations, such as eID systems, toward societally desirable outcomes. This article uses RI principles to develop a framework to govern eID systems in a more inclusive, responsible, and user-centered manner. The proposed framework seeks to complement existing practices for eID system governance by bringing forth principles of deliberation and democratic engagement to build trust amongst stakeholders of the eID system and deliver shared socioeconomic benefits.
... While the ICT field has a plethora of professional bodies, each with their own ethical guidelines, the voluntary nature of these organisations limits the effectiveness and reach of proposed standards and guidelines(Stahl et al., 2013). Not only does ethical non-compliance have no repercussions in ICT, there is also a lack of educational preparedness in ethical issues for aspiring professionals(Thornley et al., 2018).As we have highlighted, eID systems represent technological, organisational and commercial arrangements that connect an individual to a variety of socio-economic environments. With the current pace of digital innovation, we can expect that eID systems will continue to proliferate across geographies, sectors and services. ...
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Digital identity (eID) systems are a crucial piece in the digital services ecosystem. They connect individuals to a variety of socioeconomic opportunities but can also reinforce power asymmetries between organizations and individuals. Data collection practices can negatively impact an individual's right to privacy, autonomy, and self-determination. Protecting individual rights, however, may be at odds with imperatives of profit maximisation or national security. The use of eID technologies is hence highly contested. Current approaches to governing eID systems have been unable to fully address the trade-offs between the opportunities and risks associated with these systems. The Responsible Innovation (RI) literature provides a set of principles to govern disruptive innovations, such as eID systems, towards societally desirable outcomes. This paper uses RI principles to develop a framework to govern eID systems. The proposed framework seeks to complement existing practices for eID system governance by bringing forth principles of deliberation and democratic engagement to build trust amongst stakeholders of the eID system and deliver shared socioeconomic benefits.
... The path is less clear than the other aspects of professionalism as people can disagree on ethical priorities and there are some cultural differences (Sherry, 2013). A recent review of ethics as part of ICT policy revealed both core agreements and differences within the EU, for example, former Eastern bloc countries held different perspectives than some Western European countries (Thornley et al., 2018). ...
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As our dependency on ever-more complex, opaque, and ubiquitous information and communication technologies (ICTs) increases, ethical concerns about the development of those technologies are also rising. One approach to mitigate these concerns is to improve the maturity of the ICT profession through codification of its knowledge base and professional ethics. In this paper, some key theoretical approaches to ethics with a long-established tradition within Philosophy are explored and how these approaches may manifest in the codification of knowledge within ICT Bodies of Knowledge (BoKs) is discussed. BoKs provide a common vocabulary and knowledge inventory to aid communication and encourage shared values and practices, particularly in emerging professional areas such as the ICT profession. Thus, identifying and understanding how ethics are codified in ICT BoKs is important for maturing ICT professional practice in general, and more specifically, for the resolution of ethical concerns. This paper 1) explores considerations and approaches to how ethics are incorporated within ICT BoKs, and 2) conducts content analysis on how ethics are codified within the content structure of ICT Boks. It is found that theoretical ethical approaches are rarely explicated cited in BoKS though, in the more mature BoKs, the discussion of ethics does include consideration of most of the major philosophical approaches. The implications of how knowledge about ethics is described and integrated into the wider knowledge infrastructure of the ICT profession including curriculum guidelines and accreditation processes is discussed. In a wider contribution to the Knowledge Management discipline, potential lessons to increase maturity for other emerging professions through the development of BoKs are also outlined.
... The path is less clear than the other aspects of professionalism as people can disagree on ethical priorities and there are some cultural differences (Sherry, 2013). A recent review of ethics as part of ICT policy revealed both core agreements and differences within the EU, for example, former Eastern bloc countries held different perspectives than some Western European countries (Thornley et al., 2018). Indeed, dilemmas and complexity are often highlighted as key parts of ethics and ICT (Runciman, 2019;Thornley et al., 2011). ...
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Full-text available
As our dependency on ever-more complex, opaque, and ubiquitous information and communication technologies (ICTs) increases, ethical concerns about the development of those technologies are also rising. One approach to mitigate these concerns is to improve the maturity of the ICT profession through codification of its knowledge base and professional ethics. In this paper, some key theoretical approaches to ethics with a long-established tradition within Philosophy are explored and how these approaches may manifest in the codification of knowledge within ICT Bodies of Knowledge (BoKs) is discussed. BoKs provide a common vocabulary and knowledge inventory to aid communication and encourage shared values and practices, particularly in emerging professional areas such as the ICT profession. Thus, identifying and understanding how ethics are codified in ICT BoKs is important for maturing ICT professional practice in general, and more specifically, for the resolution of ethical concerns. This paper 1) explores considerations and approaches to how ethics are incorporated within ICT BoKs, and 2) conducts content analysis on how ethics are codified within the content structure of ICT Boks. It is found that theoretical ethical approaches are rarely explicitly cited in BoKS though, in the more mature BoKs, the discussion of ethics does include consideration of most of the major philosophical approaches. The implications of how knowledge about ethics is described and integrated into the wider knowledge infrastructure of the ICT profession including curriculum guidelines and accreditation processes is discussed. In a wider contribution to the Knowledge Management discipline, potential lessons to increase maturity for other emerging professions through the development of BoKs are also outlined. (
... Professional bodies continue to play a very important role in producing and disseminating ethical and standard guidelines for ICT professionals, for example the IEEE Ethically Aligned Design Guidelines provide guidance for ICT professionals (Shahriari and Shahriari, 2017). It should be noted that in contrast to other professions such as Medicine or Law, which have codes of ethics and possible penalties in place for noncompliance, the ICT profession still lacks of a coherent umbrella ethical framework (Thornley et al., 2018). ...
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Purpose Computing ethics represents a long established, yet rapidly evolving, discipline that grows in complexity and scope on a near-daily basis. Therefore, to help understand some of that scope it is essential to incorporate a range of perspectives, from a range of stakeholders, on current and emerging ethical challenges associated with computer technology. This study aims to achieve this by using, a three-pronged, stakeholder analysis of Computer Science academics, ICT industry professionals, and citizen groups was undertaken to explore what they consider to be crucial computing ethics concerns. The overlap between these stakeholder groups are explored, as well as whether their concerns are reflected in the existing literature. Design/methodology/approach Data collection was performed using focus groups, and the data was analysed using a thematic analysis. The data was also analysed to determine if there were overlaps between the literature and the stakeholders’ concerns and attitudes towards computing ethics. Findings The results of the focus group analysis show a mixture of overlapping concerns between the different groups, as well as some concerns that are unique to each of the specific groups. All groups stressed the importance of data as a key topic in computing ethics. This includes concerns around the accuracy, completeness and representativeness of data sets used to develop computing applications. Academics were concerned with the best ways to teach computing ethics to university students. Industry professionals believed that a lack of diversity in software teams resulted in important questions not being asked during design and development. Citizens discussed at length the negative and unexpected impacts of social media applications. These are all topics that have gained broad coverage in the literature. Social implications In recent years, the impact of ICT on society and the environment at large has grown tremendously. From this fast-paced growth, a myriad of ethical concerns have arisen. The analysis aims to shed light on what a diverse group of stakeholders consider the most important social impacts of technology and whether these concerns are reflected in the literature on computing ethics. The outcomes of this analysis will form the basis for new teaching content that will be developed in future to help illuminate and address these concerns. Originality/value The multi-stakeholder analysis provides individual and differing perspectives on the issues related to the rapidly evolving discipline of computing ethics.
... The path is less clear than the other aspects of professionalism as people can disagree on ethical priorities and there are some cultural differences (Sherry, 2013). A recent review of ethics as part of ICT policy revealed both core agreements and differences, for example, even within the EU the former Eastern bloc countries can have different perspectives than some Western European countries (Thornley et al., 2018). Indeed, dilemmas and complexity are often highlighted as key parts of ethics and ICT (Runciman, 2019;Thornley et al., 2011). ...
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Ethical concerns about the development and ubiquity of ICT (Information and communications technology) are becoming heightened as awareness of our increased dependency, though corresponding lack of understanding and transparency of new technologies such as IoT and AI unfold. One way of tackling this is to increase professionalism within ICT, and Bodies of Knowledge (BoKs) are an important part of this. BoKs represent the knowledge needed to function as a profession, and are becoming increasingly essential to aid communication and encourage shared and agreed upon values and practices, such as in emerging areas. They are valuable and influential in developing the scope and maturity of the ICT profession and in-turn ICT development in society. Thus, identifying and understanding the codification of ethics in BoKs is important to maturing ICT professional practice in resolving ethical concerns. This paper 1) explores considerations and approaches to the incorporation of ethics within BoKs, and 2) carries out content analysis on how ethics is codified within the content structure of ICT BoK. Findings reveal a range of different approaches which suggests the value of categorising these approaches and developing guidance on a more consistent approach. We conclude by recommending future research for revealing and tackling both overt and implicit aspects to ethics within BoKs.
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