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IMS9300 IS/IM FUNDAMENTALS. Professional practice Ethics in IM/IT. The Origins of Professions. What do these have in common? Lawyer Priest Soldier Doctor. Historical Overview. The modern concept of professionalism only emerged in the early 20th. century

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ims9300 is im fundamentals


Professional practice

Ethics in IM/IT

the origins of professions
The Origins of Professions
  • What do these have in common?
    • Lawyer
    • Priest
    • Soldier
    • Doctor
historical overview
Historical Overview
  • The modern concept of professionalism only emerged in the early 20th. century
    • appearance of new occupational groups
    • occupations that “service” the established industrial/commercial economy
    • occupational grouping organised in a collegial manner
    • growth of university professional schools
    • occupations as the focus of study by social scientists
characteristics of professions
Characteristics of Professions

control over:

- acquisition of knowledge

- application of knowledge

- access to the profession

jurisdiction over:

- knowledge

- members


- within society

- within profession

- over client

features of the professions
Features of the Professions
  • The characteristics of professions are guaranteed by institutional forms:


    • ethical codes; licensing; associations

Extensive training

    • formal; practical


    • disciplinary
the nature of professions
The Nature of Professions
  • Individualistic
    • the professional is self employed
  • Exclusive
    • no other can do the work
    • barriers to entry to profession
  • Esoteric
    • non-routine application of a body of knowledge on a case by case basis
  • Territorial
    • profession is concerned with maintaining jurisdictional boundaries over the body of knowledge
professions over time
Professions over Time
  • It is important to recognise that professions change over time and that professions can “die” ( become extinct).
  • Changes to:
    • the content of professional work
    • the body of knowledge
    • technology (specialised work becomes routine/automated)
  • Inability of the profession to abstract knowledge in the face of technological change leads to professional death.
profession a useful definition
Profession -a (useful) definition
  • A profession is an organised body of experts who apply esoteric knowledge to particular cases. (Abbot, 1988; p4)
the is professional in theory
The IS Professional (in theory)
  • possesses broad and deep knowledge
  • has highly developed skills
  • has an altruistic attitude towards the client
  • is committed to high ethical standards
  • is self reliant and free from influence, guidance or control of any other individual or organisation
  • (Mason, Masom & Culnan, 1995; p153)
the is professional
The IS Professional
  • The Body of Knowledge - about:
    • information,
    • knowledge and
    • information technology
  • Skills in - processing symbols (models):
    • abstracting the codified or objectified aspects of subjective information
  • Standards - professional ethics:
    • quality standards,
    • organisational standards
responsibility of the professional
Responsibility of the Professional
  • The interaction between a professional and a client involves both an information exchange and a power relationship
  • The client is always at a disadvantage because they want something that only a professional can provide
  • The professional is in a position to influence the client’s behaviour and thinking
  • Ethical responsibility derives from the power advantage enjoyed by the professional
the professional as employee
The Professional as Employee
  • Where professionals are employed directly by an organisation they need to serve two masters:
  • work towards achieving organisational goals and objectives by following superior’s instructions.
  • a duty to exercise judgement in any given situation that is consistent with their profession
accountability of the professional
Accountability of the Professional
  • To maintain its privileged position, the profession needs to be accountable to society.
  • At the same time, individual professionals need to be accountable to the public in general and their clients in particular
  • A code of ethics is the formal means by which the profession and individuals are held accountable

Remember: the state has ceded to (given) the profession the right to control the behaviour of the professional)

social responsibility of professions
Social Responsibility of Professions

Monitor & regulate

Practice & practitioners

Set &monitor


of practice

Educate public


acceptable practice

Develop & maintain

body of knowledge

Educate & train




of Profession



Body of


Source: Mason, Mason &Culnan, 1995; p163

individual responsibilities
Individual Responsibilities
  • do no harm
  • be competent
  • maintain independence and avoid conflict of interest
  • match client expectations
  • maintain fiduciary responsibility (information held in trust)
  • safeguard client’s privacy
  • protect records
  • safeguard intellectual property
individual responsibilities cont
Individual Responsibilities (cont.)
  • provide quality information avoid bias
  • manage gatekeeping and censorship
  • keep client confidentiality
  • obtain informed consent
  • abide by the legal regime (laws, contracts, licence agreements)
  • be a steward of client’s resources (provide information at the right time, place form and cost)
professional judgement
Professional Judgement
  • Professionals work in environments which are:
    • contextually and situationally unique
    • uncertain in that multiple outcomes are possible and acceptable
    • complex in that there are multiple, simultaneous interpretations of the situation
    • value laden in that two or more diverse ends are usually pursued simultaneously
  • Meeting client needs is not purely a technical, analytically predetermined task. Moreover technology provides another dimension which opens many other choices.
ethics in im is
Ethics in IM/IS
  • The exercise of power always raises ethical issues
  • Power stems from
    • position
    • knowledge
    • credentials
    • “information is power
perspectives on ethical issues
Perspectives on Ethical Issues
  • Ethical issues need to be considered on 2 levels:

the context

    • how the information system and its products fit, and are used, in the organisation and/or the broader community the object

the product

- how the information system is designed and constructed

  • These two levels are interdependent and both need to be addressed.
ethics and morality
Ethics and Morality

Morality - human conduct and values

Ethics - the study of conduct and values

  • Common usage is that the terms are interchangable
ethics as standards






Ethics as Standards

The continuum of standards:

moral standards
Moral Standards
  • Independent of religion
  • Societal differences are not significant when considered at a meta-level
  • Apply to both individuals and society in the sense that of how individuals perceives that society or their ideals, values and aspirations for that society.
  • The central issue is whether an ethical principle can be justified rather than concern with where and how the principle was formed.
characteristics of moral standards
Characteristics of Moral Standards
  • Behaviour can have serious consequences for human welfare, either to profundly injure or benefit people
  • Takes priority over other standards
  • Dependent on the adequacy of the reasons that support or justify the standard
  • Social code of behaviour
  • Generally non-moral
  • transgression results in social isolation ( a person is considered uncivilised, ill-mannered)
  • can have moral implications eg sexism, racism
  • Codifies customs, ideals, beliefs and society’s moral values
  • conformity with the law is not sufficient for moral conduct but the law provides some minimum standards of moral conduct and social behaviour
  • non-conformity is not necessarily immoral
types of law
Types of Law
  • Statutes - legislation passed by legislative bodies
  • Regulations - administrative rules formulated by statutory bodies
  • Common law- accumulated legal decisions which form a body of legal principles (only in English speaking countries
  • Constitutional - compatibility of any law with the relevant constitution
professional codes
Professional Codes
  • Rules that govern the conduct of members
  • Members assume a moral obligation to conform
  • Conformity is a condition of membership
  • Violation can result in exclusion
  • Are incomplete and inadequate as a guide for individual ethical behaviour
ethical theories
Ethical Theories
  • Relativism
    • no absolute or universal right and wrong
    • moral standards as a function of societal beliefs
  • Universalism
    • what is right/wrong applies to all
  • Consequentialism
    • considers the outcome of behaviour
  • Deontologism
    • duty
    • what is right
    • rights
  • Utilitarianism
    • proper outcome is the greatest good over bad for all affected by the action
    • linked to cost/benefits and risk management

Influences on ethical judgement

  • Environment – time, place, pressure
  • Individual - family, peer censure, what people think
  • Society - social norms, etiquette
  • Belief system - religious, “living with oneself”
  • Legal environment - laws
  • Professional environment - code of conduct - enforced or guideline

(Kreie & Cronan, 1998)

element of ethical behaviour
Element of Ethical Behaviour
  • Accountability - to onself and to ones ideals
  • Obligations - to act morally in relation to others affected by that act
  • Responsibility - both social and moral
  • Intentionality - to act consistently with moral standards
role of ethical training
Role of Ethical Training
  • To make defensible moral judgement
  • To reflect critically on the moral principles and ideals involved in a particular situation
  • To have a framework for critical analysis
making ethical judgement
Making Ethical Judgement
  • Judgements need to be:
    • logical
    • based on facts
    • based on acceptable principles
  • Presumes
    • rational actors
    • good will
    • mutual desire for judgement
    • ability to communicate clearly
ethical decision making
Ethical Decision Making
  • Evaluate the factual claim and determine what are the relevant facts
  • Challenge the moral standard and identify what ethical principles are involved
  • Defend the moral standard and determine which principle has primacy
  • Revise and modify the moral standard to determine if there is another way see the situation

Ethical Decision Making process

  • Determine the relevant facts
  • Identify the ethical principles involved
    • Which standards are at risk?
    • What are the “consequences” of the action?
  • Determine which principle is most important
  • Check whether there are other ways see the situation
    • employer’s view (as a society as well as power)
    • profession’s view,
    • society’s view
the professional dilema
The Professional Dilema
  • Professional duties and responsibilities (sometimes) conflict with organisational goals and outcomes.
  • Ethical behaviour can conflict with legal statutes and/or contractual obligations
  • The professional needs knowledge and skills to resolve these conflicts by themselves as the situations arise in particular contexts.
dr jekyll and mr hyde
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  • The organisational dilema is:

“... the structure and function of organisations in general, and corporate organisations in particular, require that members adhere to the organisational norms and, in fact, force commitment and conformity to them.” (Shaw, 1991; p22)

  • Raises the discrepancy between individual and corporate ethics and the resolution of the conflict between the two.
  • It also suggests that organisations can be seen as moral agents, analogous to the concept of the organisation as a legal entity, and can be accountable for their actions.
a practical ethical test
A Practical Ethical Test
  • “Before you act, be sure you will be comfortable with an [The Australian / The Age ] story, tomorrow morning, reporting what you did.”

(Oz, 1994; p11)

  • REYNOLDS, G. (2003) Ethics in Information Technology, Thomson Learning, Inc. Massachusetts.

Chapter 2

Background reading:

  • TURBAN,E., RAINER, R.K. Jnr. and POTTER, R.E. (2003) 2nd ed., Introduction to Information Technology. JOHN WILEY & SONS, INC.

Section 15