Category Archives: ICT Education

Ethics in ICT Professionalism

(This paper was compiled by Moira for IP3 (www.ipthree.org) , with significant input from Donna Lindskrog, CIPS. It was edited by IP3 Directors  from Brenda Aynsley & Stephen Ibaraki).

The purpose of this paper is to explore the genealogy of ethics in professionalism generally, how they apply to ICT and how they are enforced, and why ethics in ICT is important to society.

1.     Introduction

Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behaviour. This may involve articulating the good habits that we should acquire, the duties that we should follow, or the consequences of our behaviour on others

Society has attached a special meaning to the term Professional. A professional is expected to conduct his or herself at a higher level than most other members of society[1]

We might at first consider Professional Ethics to simply be moral conduct, which is the case for society as a whole. However, Professional ethics is related to any work that a person does for an occupation and his concern towards the society. Professional ethics carries additional moral responsibilities. Professionals have distinctive qualifications which make them unique in a society. [2].

Professions often enshrine these responsibilities within a Code of Ethics or Code of Good Practice.  ‘Profession’ means a type of job that requires special training and that brings a fairly high status, for example – work connected with medicine, law, education, and engineering. Professional ethics are the rules governing the conduct, transactions and relationships within a profession. It’s important to note that Professional Ethics have a mechanism where non-compliance can be disciplined. [3]

Simply put, a Professional is a person who:

  • Demonstrates competence, and strives for excellence
  • Is committed to a code of conduct
  • Takes personal responsibility
  • Shows public accountability
  • Shares a common Body of Knowledge
  • Commits to Continuous Professional Development (CPD)

Where a Profession is mandated by legislation of some kind, there is also a registration process required to keep a record of the Professionals.

2.     ICT as a Profession

The aforementioned Professions are regulated by  statute in almost every country, mainly because of the potential for harm to be caused to society by unethical practice. With few exceptions the ICT Profession has not been legislated, and it has been left to Professional Bodies to mandate a Code of Ethics, and offer a disciplinary process for non-compliance.

However, the model used to develop the ICT profession in the latter half of the 20th Century is no longer fit for purpose. The drivers for change include:

  • ICT touches on every other profession and industry
  • Criticality of ICT and forces of globalisation
  • Governance and security requirements
  • Maturation of IT industry
  • Increasing importance of Information as an asset
  • The need to assure competence and integrity

Because ICT is truly a global profession, with its practice being largely the same anywhere in the world, coupled with the lack of appropriate registration in many countries, IFIP IP3 was formed. It is global programme promoting professionalism; led by the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP); defining global standards and creating international infrastructure; recognising and certifying professionalism delivered through member societies.

IFIP IP3 is a vigorous program to promote professionalism in IT with the vision of a truly global and international ICT profession, equal in prestige and structure to other established professions.  Furthermore, IFIP IP3 envisages the creation of a worldwide set of professional certification schemes.  Given the global nature of the partnership, IP3 will also have the effect of facilitating  ICT capability in developing countries.

The goals of IFIP IP3 were ratified at the World Computer Congress in Milan in 2008, where the “WCC 2008 Declaration on ICT Professionalism and Competences” was signed by several ICT Organizations. In summary:

  • An International ICT Profession should be founded on essential elements of professionalism
  • Assessment of competence should include technical and non-technical competences, and should take into account international ICT certifications; vendor neutral, industry certifications and formal qualifications
  • Purpose of an international profession is equally to recognize professionalism itself, and to support those that develop professionalism
  • The structure of the international profession must be “multi-layered”.

3.    Ethics in ICT

In the case of Information & Communications Technology, or ICT Ethics, this falls as a subset of that definition as “the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group, culture, etc”[4]

In trying to determine if people have good ethics, we believe we need a definition of a line that should not be crossed.  “Good habits”, “duties” and “rules of conduct” do not seem as black and white as would be useful.  ICT is just beginning to describe “best practices” and the various roles in the industry and what their duties should be.  Whilst all the changes that are happening and how much progress is being made is encouraging, it is also difficult to get consensus on a set of duties or habits.  “Rules of conduct” imply that there has been discussion and agreement about a set of rules.

Everyone in the computing community understands the importance of recognizing and promoting ethical behaviour in the profession. Instruction in ethics is rapidly becoming a part of most computing-related curricula, whether as a stand-alone course or infused into existing courses. In 2009, seventeen faculty members and industry representatives from a wide range of institutions began to address this open problem by forming The Pledge of the Computing Professional. This initiative was spearheaded by the ACM SIGCAS (Special interest group on Computers and Society). The Pledge exists to promote and recognize the ethical and moral behaviour and responsibilities in graduates of computing-related degree programs as they transition to careers of service to society. The Pledge does not seek to define or enforce ethics – this is the role of other organizations. The Pledge, which follows below really encapsulates what is expected of ICT Professionals by the communities and the professional bodies they will be members of going forward.

The Pledge “I am a Computing Professional. My work as a Computing Professional affects people’s lives, both now and into the future. As a result, I bear moral and ethical responsibilities to society. As a Computing Professional, I pledge to practice my profession with the highest level of integrity and competence. I shall always use my skills for the public good. I shall be honest about my limitations, continuously seeking to improve my skills through life-long learning. I shall engage only in honourable and upstanding endeavours. By my actions, I pledge to honour my chosen profession.” [5]

CIPS (an IP3 member) has defined a set of ethics rules [6] for IT and they are summarized quite succinctly in 5 principles or imperatives:

  1. Protecting the Public Interest and Maintaining Integrity;
  2. Demonstrating Competence and Quality of Service;
  3. Maintaining Confidential Information and Privacy;
  4. Avoiding Conflict of Interest; and
  5. Upholding Responsibility to the IT Profession.

Apart from the strictures that are or should be placed on an ICT Professional, there are additional special responsibilities facing computer professionals – even those who are not considered Professionals in the strictest meaning of the word – which include:

  • Maintaining relationships with and responsibilities toward customers, clients, co-workers, employees, and employers.
  • Making critical decisions that have significant consequences for many people.
  • Determining how to manage, select, or use computers in a professional setting.

Additional guidelines for ICT Professionals, which are not necessarily written into Professional Codes, but are nonetheless important include:

  • Understand Success as more than just making something work
  • Design for real users and test for real users
  • Conduct thorough planning and scheduling, and pay attention to details

4.     Impact of Ethics on Society

We would live in a wonderful world if everyone could be held to ethical standards. Unfortunately though, there are different interpretations of what ethical values are. Unless there is a clear Code of Ethics, and sanctions that can be imposed for breach of Ethical standards, this will remain a Utopian dream.

Society therefore relies on the Codes of Ethics and Good Practices set up and policed by Professional Bodies. These Codes must not violate any civil law or institutional policy, and must be able to be enforced.

Possibly the most important value of Codes of  Ethics is the level of trust you can bestow on the individual professional.  If, for example, you need help from a medical professional, you trust him to know what he is doing (Education and CPD); to be honest with you in his assessment of your condition and the treatment thereof (conduct and personal responsibility); and is accountable to the Council that oversees the Medical Profession (Public accountability).

An excellent example of a Professional  is that of the Australian Computer Society  (see ACS Code of Ethics).

This code is exemplary because it emphasizes the impact of the Professional’s behaviour on society at large, rather than just the work of the professional per se.  Many Professional Codes also include that of Service – the duty to “give back” to the community and society by doing voluntary “good works”. This could include volunteering for their own Professional Society.

5.     Conclusion

It is clear that Professional Codes of Ethics are essential to assure Society that the Professionals they deal with will not cause harm.

Because ICT practitioners are employed in all industries, and the impact of their work can be detrimental as well as beneficial, as the profession continues to mature, it is vital that these impacts are recognised and risks managed.  Professional Competence in practice and Codes of Ethics and Good Behaviour should be certified, as is being done by IFIP IP3, then in future work performed by certified ICT Professionals around the world can be trusted by anyone and everywhere that has subscribed to this certification process.


[4]              Baase, Sara , A Gift of Fire:Social, Legal, and Ethical Issues for Computing and the Internet (Third edition),Prentice Hall,  Page 30

[5]              SIGCAS Newsletter (August 2012) http://tinyurl.com/pledge-sigcas

Camphill School gets computer lab

The CSSA and the Papillon Foundation have opened up a new world for these intellectually challenged learners.

Wednesday, 6 April, was a momentous day for the learners of Camphill School, near Hermanus, in the Western Cape. It marked the official opening of its brand new computer lab.

Thanks largely to the generosity of the Computer Society of South Africa (CSSA), together with the Papillon Foundation, the school is now the proud owner, for the first time in its 61-year history, of a computer lab.

Camphill School is an independent Section 21 school for intellectually disabled children, aged between six and 18. Of its current 52 learners, more than 80% are from local, disadvantaged communities, where the parents are able to pay little or nothing in school fees. The fees, together with a small subsidy from the Western Cape Education Department, account for less than 40% of its budgetary requirements. Just surviving is a challenge, let alone acquiring luxuries like a computer lab.

Thanks to the tireless commitment and enthusiasm of Mike Chiles and Moira de Roche, both members of the CSSA, the ball was set in motion to create this wonderful opportunity for the children of Camphill School. They mobilised the CSSA, together with the Papillon Foundation, to make a dream come true.

The Papillon Foundation provided 10 refurbished computers, and the society paid for additional security for one of the school’s classrooms, converted for the purpose, as well as carpeting, workstations and the necessary cabling to make the lab fully operational. Cecil Nurse completed the picture with the donation of 10 chairs, while Overberg Computers supplied mouse pads and headsets.

The last piece of the puzzle was the installation of software by CAMI, which has been especially designed for the education of learners with special needs. The software is on trial for six months, and if it lives up to its promise, will continue to enrich the lives of the learners for a long time to come.

These special needs educational programs will open up a whole new world of experience for the learners, and give the teachers an additional teaching tool for the development of the children, most of whom respond particularly well to visual stimuli. One can barely imagine what the lab will mean to those learners who are unable to communicate through speech, but who may now be able to do so by means of a computer. For them, it will be like breaking out of prison.

Additional computers donated by the Papillon Foundation will enable the school to put at least one computer in each classroom as well. So, 2013 will see Camphill School, its teachers and learners step into the exciting world of cyber space together. Its donor friends can’t be thanked enough for this wonderful opportunity!

(as published by ITWeb

http://www.itweb.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=63338:Camphill-School-gets-computer-lab&catid=262)

Grade 10 learners shine in Programming Olympiad

Officially the subject “Information Technology” only starts in grade 10, but two learners gave themselves a head start and made the finals of the Programming Olympiad.  Usually learners in grade 10, who have only had a few months of programming tuition, do not make it to the Programming Olympiad Finals.

Peter Waker,  Manager of the Standard Bank Programming Olympiad explains “For a grade 10 learner to make it to the Finals they must have started programming on their own before they reached grade 10. Essentially these learners are self-taught.”  Darren Roos of the Pretoria Chinese School confirms this. “I started programming when I was in grade 6. I have learned much at the Final Round and cannot wait to share it with my friends.”

His school principal Liséttè Noonan is impressed by Darren’s enthusiasm “I am presently looking at how we can introduce an advanced program on IT.”

Reuben Steenekamp from Reddam House Constantia in Cape Town has a similar history. His father explains “Reuben was very keen on programming from primary school days. When he reached the limit of what he could teach himself we were lucky enough to find a group at the University of Cape Town that he could join.”

The Standard Bank Programming Olympiad is an annual event that this year attracted 4,848 entries. The First Round is held at schools all over Southern Africa. The top performers in that round are invited to Cape Town for the Final Round. The finalists for 2012 came from the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape.

The Finals are held over two days. On each of these days the participants has to write the programs that would solve three problems.  Their solutions are tested with different datasets and were expected to provide the answers within as little as half a second.

Robert Spencer, a grade 12 learner at Westerford High in Rondebosch earned the Gold award, the Standard Bank trophy, R37,000 for himself and R5,000 for his school by having the highest score in the 2012 Standard Bank Programming Olympiad. This is the third time Robert has taken part in the competition. He won a Bronze medal last year.

A learner from Pearson High in the Eastern Cape, Stephen Barnes (grade 12), earned Silver. The other Silver medal went to Paul le Roux, a grade 12 learner at Parel Vallei High School in Somerset West.

Bronze awards went to Janneman Gericke a grade 12 learner at De Kuilen High, Guy Paterson-Jones in grade 11 at the Diocesan College (Bishops) in Rondebosch and Shaylan Lalloo in grade 11 at Pearson High in Port Elizabeth.

IT billionaire, Mark Shuttleworth, provided a total of R100,000 in prize money for learners using the computer language Python.  Python is the language Mark used to write the software that made him his billions, and he wants other young South Africans to have the same opportunity.  Most of the finalists, and all but one of the medal winners, used Python.  The last Python prize of R10,000  went to the highest ranking runner-up, Grant Zietsman of Pretoria Boys’ High.

Peter Waker commented  “What is really remarkable is that none of these learners use Python at school. For the competition a few used Java which is taught in some provinces, but most chose to learn a second language.”

Let’s hope that both of the Grade 10 learners go from strength to strength to be in a good position to win medals at the 2014 International Olympiad in Informatics.

For more information,  contact info@olympiad.co.za

(Moira de Roche is a trustee of the South African Computer Olympiad trust)

The state of IT education in South African schools

Guest blog by Mike Chiles

Mike Chiles addresses audience at IT Learner’s Awards

The two subjects Computer Applications Technology (CAT) and Information Technology (IT) have their roots in a subject called Computer Studies that started as an official subject in the Western Cape in 1979, a little over 33 years ago.  Computer Studies has changed its nature and been through a few versions since then culminating in 2006 with the introduction of OBE to the FET band at schools where it became the subjects as we know them today.  You will no doubt know that we are going through yet another iteration, called CAPS.

In 2011, 549 learners sat their final IT examination in the Western Cape and 8 557 sat their final CAT examination.  In comparison to other subjects offered in the Western Cape these numbers like some others are relatively small and consequently do not appear on the radar when it comes to the provincial awards ceremony held at the beginning of each year.

You will already have heard that one of the objectives of the Computer Society South Africa (CSSA) is to “elevate the level of ICT capability in Southern Africa”.  It is for this reason that the Western Cape Chapter decided, a while ago, to institute these awards where we recognise those learners who have achieved in CAT and IT.  We also recognise the educators who put in many hours of hard work and provide the opportunities so that their learners can succeed.

What is of some concern to many is that the numbers of learners taking these computer-based subjects at schools in the Western Cape and across the country are still relatively low and, of more concern, are starting to decline.

At a recent policy conference held at Gallagher Estate in Midrand it is reported that Jacob Zuma stated that “SA needs to ensure that ICT becomes an enabler in the country”.  He has tasked the Dept of Communications with the development of a new ICT policy – hence the ICT Indaba recently held at the CTICC.  He furthermore stated that “On the skills front, many young people from historically-disadvantaged backgrounds come out of the basic education system, never having been exposed to ICTs. This impacts their performance in institutions of higher learning, as well as their ability to adapt and become competent in the use of ICTs.”  So the education system clearly has a challenge that it needs to meet.  This challenge is to not only provide computer laboratories for curriculum purposes (such as those provided by the Khanya Project and Gauteng Online) but also to develop learners’ competence in the use of ICTs.  This of course, in addition to the provision of textbooks and other learning resources.

However, I have been told that in one province up to 30 schools have been instructed by their MEC to drop CAT from their subject list as from 2012, while in some of the former Model C schools CAT is being dropped and Dramatic Arts or similar subjects are being introduced.  The IT numbers are on the decline for a number of reasons, chief of which is the difficulty of obtaining suitably qualified teachers.

So why are the CAT numbers declining, you might ask?  It has everything to do with what has become known as the “designated list”.  This is a list of subjects that tertiary institutions require learners to take in order to gain entry to a degree course.  This list includes the gateway subjects (Languages, Maths and Math Lit, Life Sciences, Accounting, etc.) and other subjects such as Information Technology, Dramatic Arts, Consumer Studies, Religious Studies, etc. but not Computer Applications Technology.  I’m aware that some research is now being done on the “designated list” by HESA (Higher Education South Africa) but I believe that pressure needs to be brought to bear on the authorities to include CAT on the “designated list”, after all many of the tertiary institutions require their students to obtain some form of computer literacy before they can graduate and we are living in a world where the workplace requires greater competence in the use of technology.  These days one stands a better chance of getting into tertiary education to study a B.Sc by taking Consumer Studies (Domestic Science) and not CAT at school level.

So my plea is for the authorities to carefully look at the computer-based subjects at school level so that, at the very least, education can give effect to the statement made by President Jacob Zuma about increasing the ICT competence of learners in the basic education system.

Mike Chiles retired as Director: e-Learning after more than 40 years in secondary school education.  He started Computer Studies in the Western Cape in 1979 and is still intimately involved with both CAT and IT.  He has a passion for endeavouring to support educators using Web 2.0 technologies. Mike is a Fellow of Computer Society South Africa.