Professional ethics in the information age

Published date13 November 2017
Date13 November 2017
AuthorOliver Kisalay Burmeister
Professional ethics in the
information age
Oliver Kisalay Burmeister
School of Computing and Mathematics, Charles Sturt University,
Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia
Purpose Professional ethics is exploredwith three main foci: a critique of codes of conduct and the value
of creating a global code for informationand communication technology (ICT); a critique of ICT professional
certication;and the debate over whether ICT is really a profession.
Design/methodology/approach This is a conceptual reection on the current state of the ICT
industryinternationally, informed by the literature.
Findings Comparedto a mature profession,such as health, ICT is a young profession. This is evidenced in
the disparityof domains of practice,the lack of agreement on universal values governing the industry and the
ongoingdifculties in creating international certication.
Originality/value Until now, there hasbeen little recognition of the corporatisation of ICTprofessionals
and the effect that has on their abilityto engage in appropriate professional ethics. More researchis needed to
explore appropriateways in which ethical behaviour can be encouragedin the corporate workplace, including
how professionaldevelopment can be strengthenedthrough building learning organisations.
Keywords Globalisation, Healthcare, Human values, Codes of ethics
Paper type Research paper
This paper explores three aspectsof professional ethics. First, a critique of codes of conduct
and the value of creating a global codefor information and communication technology (ICT).
Second, a critique of ICT professional certication, and nally, it explores the debate over
whether ICT is really a profession or simply artisan activity. It achieves this by rst
exploring the concept of professionalethics as it relates to ICT, including the related issues
of professional development and how professionalism might be dened. Next, it addresses
those foci by exploring the domainsof ICT, and how they relate to issues of certication and
other forms of professional accreditation. Finally, those foci are answered, based on the
discussion to that point.
Professionalism and ethics
This exploration of professional ethics in the information age begins by reecting on the
association between professionalism and ethics. A good starting point is to consider more
generally what it means to be professional,using a virtue ethics interpretation. An example
of this is found in a review of the ACM/IEEECode for Software Engineers (Volkman, 2013).
To be a professional is to dene ones self in terms of somethingone professes; professions
are dened in terms of shared values and projects. In light of that, ethical conduct is not
some further duty or extra burden on the professional. For the professional, ethics is not
something added to the job that might conict with your interests, not somethingyou do in
addition to doing your job or as a constraint on what youwould like to do instead. For the
professional, ethics is just what it means to do your job well on your own terms, the terms
Received30 November 2016
Revised6 February 2017
Accepted7 February 2017
Journalof Information,
Communicationand Ethics in
Vol.15 No. 4, 2017
pp. 348-356
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/JICES-11-2016-0045
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