The importance of ethics in the IT profession
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The importance of ethics in the IT profession

Arguably, the most important and probably the most unnoticeable aspect against all technology malpractices is the ethical behaviour of IT professionals. Photo: Shutterstock.com

Arguably, the most important and probably the most unnoticeable aspect against all technology malpractices is the ethical behaviour of IT professionals. Photo: Shutterstock.com

The demand for IT professionals is growing consistently. In 2019, it was estimated that the demand for IT professionals was just under 6.2 million, while there was a supply of just under six million.

There has also been a corresponding increase in demand for IT professionalism in the sector. This is not a coincidence especially with the advancement in technology and emerging technologies in artificial intelligence, robotics, Internet-of-Things, big data, high-performance computing, nano-technology and others.

Cybercrime and fraud have also increased at the same pace, perhaps the same technology has presented them with more opportunities. Business and government have responded with the emerging of standards and practices like the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), cybersecurity, ethical hacking, the blockchain, process analysis, and so much more.

But is this enough? Arguably the most important and probably the most unnoticeable aspect against all technology malpractices is the ethical behaviour of IT professionals. IT professionals have an important responsibility of exercising their profession in the right and correct manner. During their career they will surely be faced with many challenging situations where they will put ethics into practice.

Ethics are usually defined as a set of principles that govern a person’s behaviour or the conducting of an activity. It is therefore common and very important that professions have a set of principles, usually entitled as a ‘code of ethics’ that are public and mandatory for members of the profession.

The older professions are very well established and are regulated by law. But for the ICT sector, a coherent ethical framework is lacking when compared with medicine, law and engineering, which have codes of ethics and penalties in place for non-compliance.

Emerging technologies increase the need for compliance to a common set of European code of ethics

However, it must be also recognised that ICT has many associations, with members obliged to uphold a specific code of ethics during their practice. These include professional bodies like the British Computer Society, the Association for Computing Machinery, the Institute of Electrical Engineers, the Computer Society of Malta, the Chamber of Professional Engineers (Malta) and others. But only a proportion of IT professionals and practitioners belong to these bodies, also because they need a high level of qualifications and experience to be members.

In 2016, as part of the launch of the European Framework for IT Professionalism, a set of ethical guidelines were released to serve the interests of the public and society, employers, clients, the informatics profession and its practitioners. These are also a value proposition for organisations to develop a code of ethics as guidelines for their ICT practitioners.

Now is the right time to develop the ICT profession further. The implementation of the emerging technologies mentioned earlier increases the need for compliance to a common set of European code of ethics.

It was, therefore, opportune that the European Committee of Standardisation (CEN), through its TC428 technical committee, started work on such a project. Through the eSkills Malta Foundation, on behalf of the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority, the Maltese standards organisation, Malta is working on these ethics together with other European counterparts in the CEN TC 428. The Foundation looks forward to the further development of the Maltese IT profession and hopes to bring it on par with other European countries.

Carm Cachia is chief administrator, eSkills Malta Foundation.

https://eskillsalliancecms.gov.mt/en/pages/home.aspx

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