STRIKING A BALANCE BETWEEN ETHICS AND ICT GOVERNANCE
Graeme Pye & Matthew J. Warren
School of Information Systems,
Faculty of Business and Law,
Geelong, Victoria, Australia, 3217
Ethics and Information Communication Technology (ICT) Governance both have their place in today’s business organisations, but can their practical applications present an ethical ambiguity for the IT professional employed within the business organisation? The guidelines contained within various codes of ethics recommend principles regarding the ethical behaviour of individual IT professionals. In contrast, IT Governance as outlined in the new Australian Standard for Corporate Governance of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) provides ICT governance advice for business. This paper explores the difference between these viewpoints. Keywords: Ethics, IT governance, ICT and ACS.
Depending on your personal perspective, ethics can have a number of relevant meanings. In general terms ethics is regarded as the moral rationales that influence a person’s behaviour or the carrying out of an activity or alternatively, ethics can also refer to the area of knowledge that deals with moral principles (Pearsall, 1998). However, from an information technology (IT) business domain perspective, Clarke’s (1999) view was that the term ethics is intended to refer to the guiding principles of doing what is right or wrong from a moral perspective, in reference to ethical behaviour of both the individual IT professional and the governance of an IT department within a business organisation.
As an overview, this research seeks to investigate and philosophically appreciate the ethical perceptions, interpretations, principles and professed tenets of the Australian Computer Society’s (ACS) Code of Ethics (2003), while also investigating the genesis and potential influence of IT governance in light of the recent publication of the Australian Standard for the recommended guiding principles of Corporate Governance of Information and Communication Technology AS 8015-2005 (2005). As a result of this circumstance, the IT professional is now potentially faced with two behavioural conventions in the workplace that can both exert their own normative influences on the employees’ ethical behaviour. So initially this paper will explain and philosophically define ethics and morality, before proceeding to examine and compare the particular focus of the key principles underpinning the ASC Code of Ethics (2005) and the Australian Standard for ICT Governance (2005).
Australasian Journal of Information Systems
Volume 13 Number 2
PHILOSOPHY OF ETHICS AND MORIALTY
According to the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, ethics is ‘the study of the concepts involved in practical reasoning: good, right, duty, obligation, virtue, freedom, rationality, choice’ (Blackburn p.126 1994) while, applied ethics is ‘the subject that applies ethics to actual practical problems …’ (Blackburn p.126 1994). Furthermore, the ethics and morality of an individual or people can be regarded as the same thing according to Blackburn (1994), however a usage of morality by German philosopher Kant (1724 – 1804) restricts the usage of morality to ideas of duty, obligation and principles of conduct, while reserving ethics for the Aristotle (384 – 322 BC) approach of practical reasoning pertaining to the ideas of virtue and generally avoiding the separation of moral considerations from other practical considerations.
These philosophical rationales will form the basis of a philosophical analysis from an ethical and moral perspective of the information content of the ACS Code of Ethics (2003) and the ICT Governance Standard (2005) respectively, to gain a deeper understanding of their philosophical basis, considered roles and application within the IT domain of any business organisation.
CODE OF ETHICS
References: ACS 2003, Australian Computer Society Code of Ethics, (Online), Australian Computer Society,
Available from: (May 2005).
Blackburn S. 1994, The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, Oxford University Press, Oxford U.K.
Clarke R. 1999, Ethics and the Internet: Cyberspace Behaviour of People, Communities and
Organisations., (Online), ANU, Available from:
Melser P. Byrne-Armstrong H. 2000, 'Corporate Voices, Personal Voices: The Ethics of the Internet. '
in 2nd Australian Institute of Computer Ethics Conference (AICE2000), Australian Computer
Weill R., Ross J. W. 2004, IT Governance, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, Massachusetts.
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