The Importance of Ethics in the IT Profession

The Importance of Ethics in the IT Profession

Article by Carm Cachia published on the Sunday Times of Malta on 10th February 2019

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 6 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 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 mal-practices is the ethical behaviour of IT Professionals. IT Professionals have got an important responsibility of exercising their profession in the right and correct manner. For sure, during their career, they will be faced with many challenging situations to practice their ethics.
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 but very important that professions have a set of principles, usually entitled as a “Code of Ethics” that are public and mandatory to their members.

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

However, it must be also recognised that ICT has many bodies with members obliged to uphold a specific code of Ethics during their practice. These include professional bodies like the British Computer Society (BCS), Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), Institute of Electrical Engineers (IEEE), Computer Society of Malta (CSM), 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, the employer or client, 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.

It is the right time to develop the ICT Profession further. The implementation of the emerging technologies mentioned earlier brings compliance to a common set of European Code of Ethics much needed.

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