President’s Podium Oct – Nov 2018
Importance of ethical behaviour in the practice of the ICT profession.
Growing up, I always thought knowing right from wrong was straight forward. I grew up in a household with strong values and it almost seems obvious to do what is right. But fast forward to 2018 and over the last few years we have been inundated with reports on corruption and unethical behaviour? We see what is happening at KPMG, Steinhoff, Eskom and VBS bank and also The Sunday Times.
What is happening to us as society? What’s happened to man’s moral compass? Greed has just taken over. Are we battling to define and understand ethical behaviour?
What is ethical behaviour? To oversimplify it, it’s about doing the right thing when no one is watching. One could argue that it has the same meaning as integrity. But what is the right thing?
Life is complex and the same applies to one’s values. We all have a different value system. We have different convictions about what is good/important or desirable. Values are personal beliefs and are shaped by our upbringing.
Another challenge with regard to ethics is that you can behave unethically but it is still legal but the converse also applies in that you can behave ethically but it is illegal.
As ICT professionals we have to behave ethically and responsibly at all times. We are in a position of trust. To be regarded as a professional we must not just operate within the boundaries of the law, but we need to go beyond that to conduct ourselves ethically and responsibly at all times. We must value and safeguard professional standards.
With the emergence of big data, cloud computing, Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence etc. technology increasingly offers organisations new and faster ways to gather information and conduct business. The onus is on ICT professionals to ensure proper processes and methodologies are observed. Ethical conduct requires ICT professionals to consider the implications of their actions on staff, customers and others.
The importance of ethics among information technology professionals is the responsibility to ensure that computer technology is not used in the wrong ways which can harm people, environment and the society.
Trust takes years to build and seconds to destroy and, as the IT industry, we need to equip our practitioners with tools and provide guidance and leadership that support and enable ethical behaviour.
We need ethical standards and safe reporting systems and we mustn’t always punish bad behaviour but reward good behaviour. We need to have a safe environment for our practitioners to engage, speak openly and be guided by others.
Without any application of ethics, our society would be one of dishonesty and uncertainty. Even if we do not have a perfect society, the ethics in our country is what we can still could rely on.
We all have a lapse of judgement or a moment of weakness from time to time. We are human. But if we can recognise the impact of our actions and be aware of it, we can wake up each day with the intent of doing what’s right.