Ethical Behaviour in Software Development

 

Ethical behaviour in software development

Ethics, as a branch of philosophy, has been around since Ancient Greek times and has been adopted in many spheres of life, including professional industries and practices, as a guide for moral behaviour. In fields such as medicine, ethical considerations are fairly straightforward – “do no harm” being the most prominent. In terms of engineering, ethics was first adopted around 1912 by American engineering societies and followed the tune of providing services that are honest, impartial, fair and equal, which contribute to the protection of public safety, health and welfare. The ethical question of protecting the welfare of the public is clear enough in engineering disciplines like civil engineering, but what about younger disciplines such as software engineering, where the degree of contact between software engineers and members of the public is less apparent?

 

Industry ethics

Ethical failings on the part of some IT industry bodies and the fringe participants therein, such as hackers and unregulated entities, are something regularly witnessed. From online fraud and DDoS attacks to Facebook violating privacy policies, ethical behaviour in software seems to be in dire need of further articulation and streamlining; “One code of conduct that applies to everything digital would be ideal,” states Moira de Roche, IFIP Board Director and IITPSA non-executive director, but in reality what needs to be fostered is “a common understanding of integrity amongst professionals – both individually and as IT organisations”.

Computing professionals’ actions change the world, as expressly outlined by the International Federation for Information Processing’s (IFIP) Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, and as such ICT professionals should “positively contribute to society in ways that minimise unintentional ethical mistakes and maximise ethical opportunities”. This extends to instances of good and bad practice where failing to uphold industry-standard practices can lead to opportunities for unethical doings; for example, failure to update necessary security measures can lead to compromised data, making systems more vulnerable to hacking and cyberattacks. Maintaining best practices and bearing in mind the power ICT professionals hold in shaping society can ultimately help make the ICT industry more ethical overall.

 

Organisational ethics

Professional membership councils and bodies within industries help articulate and regulate Codes of Ethics, which in turn serve as guides for individual organisations when drafting their own Codes of Ethics. Within the software industry, the Association for Computing Machinery and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers were amongst the first to adopt a Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct in the 1990s, although the concept of computing ethics had been explored since the 1940s.

These bodies’ Codes contributed to the formation of dedicated research and regulatory bodies, such as the IFIP, which help more regional bodies, such as the Institute of Information Technology  Professionals South Africa (IITPSA), formulate their own Codes of Ethics and in turn hold them accountable thereto. The IITPSA is recognised by SAQA and accredited with the IFIP’s International Professional Practice Partnership, a platform designed to help shape and implement policies set out to foster professionalism in the global ICT sector, which their own Code of Conduct is aligned to. Such regulatory bodies then serve as guides to individual members, making membership with the IITPSA beneficial for ensuring industry standards and ethics are upheld through their Code of Ethics, their ‘global conscience of the profession’, which all members are held accountable to. Organisational Codes of Ethics stipulate what ethical and moral conduct is expected of members and employees across the organisation, in the form of ethical principles and practices. On an organisational level, Codes of Ethics need to “give voice to an organisation’s values and inform ethical decision-making” explains de Roche. BBD CIO and IITPSA Professional CIO, Tony van der Linden, explains that “as stated in the BBD Code of Conduct, at BBD, we believe that acting ethically and responsibly is not only the right thing to do, but also the right thing to do for our business. Our Code, reinforced by our everyday behaviour, represents the blueprint for doing business the right way and ‘business the right way’ can only be achieved when individuals act ethically and consistently within our Code, our policies and the law”. The IITPSA Professional CIO (Pr.CIO) designation in South Africa recognises highly qualified and experienced CIOs at the pinnacle of their careers. The IITPSA Pr.CIO designation is awarded only to professionals who have gained extensive experience in the role of CIO, specifically recognising qualifications and experience in the role of the senior executive responsible for the interface between business and IT.

 

Individual ethics

“Ethics comes down to individual decision-making. It is deciding on a day-to-day basis to not be an unethical person” describes de Roche. “It’s about what is innately right and understanding that there are consequences to one’s actions.” As a leading software development firm, BBD believes that their reputation for acting ethically and responsibly is built one decision at a time, every day, by each of its people.

Recognising right from wrong and acting accordingly is ethics put into practice, and the collective understanding of an ethical code is what defines those ethical behaviours. Seeing through an “ethical lens” can help guide one’s decisions, especially in instances where direct involvement may not be the case, but turning a blind eye is the unethical decision to make. “Joining a professional body, like the IITPSA, for professional accountability, and subscribing to their Code of Ethics as a go-to when faced with difficult decisions, can help”, says Tony Parry, CEO of IITPSA. It is worth finding out if your organisation is a member of such body, otherwise joining as an individual for your own professional accountability can help you keep abreast of developments within Codes of Ethics as the IT industry’s relationship to, and adoption of, ethics evolves.

In instances where the ethical choice is not necessarily the most obvious, such as with free-to-use code and opensource software, attribution or acknowledgement may actually be required. This is where questioning the ethicality behind your use of the framework and respecting the framework for the value it adds to society, helps guide your decision. And when in doubt, it is advisable to ask for permission or for input, either from direct superiors or professional bodies.

 

Futureproofing ethics

As stated in the IFIP Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, “codes with fixed benchmarks are of little help in a rapidly changing ICT environment” and as such, the Code is based on an aspirational model that sets ethical targets. This is helpful in an environment where technologies such as AI, machine learning and robotics are at play and questions such as ‘how do you punish a self-driving car for hitting a pedestrian?’ crop up. “Ethical considerations should be no different in the future,” explains de Roche, “decision-making processes should remain the same, and professionals should remain fair and unbiased.”

“We need to be embodying and conveying the same ethics in devices and technologies with decision-making software,” iterates de Roche. And this is more important now than ever for the people behind this technology, actively making decisions that impact the technology’s output. “At BBD, we teach skills and instil a passion to work, grow and play in each of our people but it is hard, if not impossible, to make unethical people ethical” explains van der Linden. “Our leaders are grown from those who understand this early on and demonstrate good ethics in their everyday choices while excelling in and growing their own capabilities and assisting others on the same path. When building technology that may have the ability to make its own choice such as AI, these are the people we want involved early on, doing the guiding and implementing the safeguards, just as they guide their own people.”

 

Being ethical should be innate to all of us, but in those moments when doing what’s right isn’t as clear as it seems, always look to your organisation’s Code of Ethics, your personal values, and your fundamental function as a software engineer to contribute to society and human well-being overall. Remember that:

  • Your actions, whether direct or indirect, impact society and change people’s lives
  • Adhering to best practices wherever possible can help minimise the threat of unethical behaviour from others
  • Professional bodies have clearly identified and articulated Codes of Ethics that are helpful guides for acting ethically
  • An ethical industry comes down to ethical organisations, and ethical organisations come down to ethical individuals. Always approach things with an ethical lens and when in doubt, ask

 

Acknowledging that all people are stakeholders in computing and minimising the adverse impacts of technologies being integrated into almost every sector of society is a key responsibility of all ICT practitioners and should guide your professional practice and the decisions you make.

 

For more information on BBD, visit bbdsoftware.com/

 

 

Reference

IFIP Ethics Task & Finish Group 2020

 

IITPSA Achieves IP3 Accreditation for a Second Term with noteworthy “firsts”

IP3 is pleased to announce that IITPSA (Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa) has completed the process of renewing the accreditation of its professional recognition schemes with flying colours. The IP3 Board approved the recommendation of the Standards and Accreditation Council earlier in December to extend the accreditation for a further five years unconditionally.

The evaluation process was notable for several reasons. It was the first to be completed remotely, with the assessors remaining at their home bases on different continents. It was the first to be completed without the need for interviews, thanks to the high quality of the comprehensive documentation submitted by IITPSA in support of their application. It was the first to accredit a SFIA Level 7 designation, recognising the role of Professional CIO (Pr.CIO).

This latter “first” is significant, because it recognises the crucial role played by CIOs in setting and implementing the strategy for enterprises, addressing the needs of the business, the appropriate technology, and the provision of skilled resources to support the integration of technology into the business. The certification scheme also encompasses the importance of governance, compliance, and ethical behaviour in the CIO’s portfolio. Achieving the Pr.CIO designation requires an appropriate mix of academic qualifications, relevant experience, assessment of competence, and satisfying a peer review interview.

Tony Parry, IITPSA’s CEO, stresses that this certified designation is specifically aimed at senior practitioners in a CIO (or equivalent) role and was motivated at the request of the CIO Council in South Africa. He emphasises that the Professional Member (PMIITPSA) designation remains appropriate for all other senior practitioners at SFIA Level 5 and above.

Stephen Ibaraki awarded Microsoft MVP AI for 2020-2021

Microsoft announced on 1 July 2020 that Stephen Ibaraki has once again been awarded an MVP, Microsoft MVP AI for 2020-2021. Stephen has more than 300 “lifetime and career” achievements and awards for disruptive innovation, futuristic investments, successful entrepreneurship, and global technology leadership, as exemplified by 18 global Microsoft Awards including 15 Microsoft MVP Awards. “It is with great pride we announce that Stephen Ibaraki has been awarded as a Microsoft® Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for 7/1/2020 – 7/1/2021. The Microsoft MVP Award is an annual award that recognizes exceptional technology community leaders worldwide who actively share their high quality, real-world expertise with users and Microsoft. All of us at Microsoft recognize and appreciate Stephen’s extraordinary contributions and want to take this opportunity to share our appreciation with you.”  Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, “We recognize and value your exceptional contributions and commitment to technical communities worldwide. By sharing your real-world expertise and technical skills, you demonstrate outstanding technical community leadership. Thank you.”

Ibaraki’s journey in multiple innovations in technology including AI started at 10 years of age. This is noted when he was the only one everawarded for IT Leadership—Lifetime Achievement from thousands of nominations from government, industry, academia, media, and non-profits.

The AI and Technology innovations continued when he received the lifetime achievement Advanced Technology Award for Leadership in Information Technology. Noted by Premier Campbell “you have distinguished yourself in your field of endeavour promoting pioneering efforts in technology and this award will recognize your considerable contributions with respect to the applications and adaptations of advanced technology to new uses. I commend you for your many achievements and thank you for your commitment to industry excellence.”

He also in the 1980s, created for Atomic Energy of Canada, the world’s first microcomputer-based enterprise system, first network system, with AI embedded (the world’s first application of AI in the nuclear industry) – at that time Canada had nearly 80% world market share.

The work continued when Ibaraki was the founding chair for the CEO-summit technology advisory council for financial services CEOs with US$90+ trillion in assets under management, where he talked extensively about AI and profiled in this IT World article. This continued in 2019 as reported in this Forbes article.

Stephen was the first one to introduce AI to the UN and to address the UN General Assembly reported in news and in UN News. Stephen founded AI for Good, contributing full-time, which is the largest global movement on AI solutions supporting the UN SDGs. AI for Good is adopted by governments, industry, and academia with a billion plus audience. Related to this, Stephen was a founding host and moderator for the AI Forum at the World Internet Conference. To build global support for AI for Good, Stephen organized sessions and spoke at ITU conferences and briefed the United Nations in New York. Examples include, the ITU World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly held every 4 years—2016 video. At ITU Telecom World annual flagship conference—2017 video. At AI for Good in 2018 and 2019.

Other AI initiatives include on the founding steering committee for AI Pioneers of invited 300 CxOs. The list continues with firsts in AI.

Release ends —————————————————————————————————————-

Stephen is a Vice-Chair of IFIP IP3 responsible for Strategic Relations.  For more about Stephen https://www.linkedin.com/in/sibaraki/

 

IP3 to participate in World Summit for Information Society (WSIS) 2020

World Summit for Information Society 2010

The forum was postponed from April to August 2020 due to the outbreak of COVID-19 but was later canceled and replaced with a virtual event (run on the Zoom platform).

The opening ceremony was held on 22 June 2020 and is followed by three Thematic Workshops scheduled each day until 11 September 2020.

The high-Level dialogues and other plenaries will take place from 27 July to 11 September 2020. Click here for the full agenda.  IFIP will be participating in the High-Level Policy Session: Ethical Dimensions of Information and Knowledge Societies to be held on Tuesday 28 July 2020 from 14:00 to 15:00 (CET). Click here for more information on this High-Level session and to register. Please join the audience to hear what various players, including  Governments, International Organisations, Civil Society, and Business are doing to support Ethics. IFIP will be on the panel of this High-Level Session.

As we have done since 2012, IFIP IP3 will be presenting a Thematic Workshop on 15 July 2020 from 12:00 to 13:00 (CET). “Living the standard – how can the Information and Knowledge Society live to an ethical and FAIR Standard and leave nobody behind?”

  • What role does a Codes of Ethics play?
  • The role of Law and Regulation in complementing Codes of Ethics to improve the public’s trust in goods and services that use technologies including AI.
  • How can we create Trust in Digital?
  • Does a digitally skilled citizenry drive economic growth in all countries?

For more information visit https://www.ipthree.org/newsroom/ip3-at-world-summit-for-information-society-2020/

To register https://www.itu.int/net4/wsis/forum/2020/Agenda/Session/131 

We hope you will join us for this important discussion.

Global ICT Body Calls for Professional Standards in Wake of Boeing Disasters

IFIP IP3 Wants ICT Practitioners Working with Safety Critical Systems to be Certified

Thursday 28 March 2019: The global professional body for the technology sector has called for minimum professional standards for ICT practitioners working on computer systems where human life might be at risk.

The call – from IP3 (International Professional Practice Partnership), the professionalism arm of IFIP (International Federation for Information Processing) – follows reports that Boeing has developed a software patch to address the glitch in the 737 MAX 8 planes that caused two major airline crashes in the past 12 months and killed nearly 350 people.

IP3 Chair, Moira de Roche wants defined standards in terms of qualifications and experience for ICT practitioners involved in designing, testing and maintaining safety critical software systems, such as those used in transport, health and other sectors where system failure can cause death.

“Society used to believe that ICT practitioners did not have to be professionals because what they do is not life threatening,” said Ms de Roche. “However, these crashes involving the Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes prove that software errors can threaten hundreds of lives at a time.”  

IP3 accredits national member societies to certify ICT practitioners who meet minimal standards for technical knowledge and skills, which are continually updated through continuing professional development, and who are committed to a Code of Ethics and accountable for developing and maintaining trustworthy ICT systems.

Reports this week claim that Boeing has completed, and is now testing, a software patch to prevent the controversial Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) from being triggered multiple times, which is what is believed to have caused the recent 737 MAX 8 crashes.

According to a recent Boeing statement, “We’ve been working diligently and in close cooperation with the FAA on the software update. We are taking a comprehensive and careful approach to design, develop and test the software that will ultimately lead to certification.”

Ms de Roche said tighter standards are needed to ensure that the public is protected when flying.

“While it’s heartening to hear that Boeing has provided a patch to fix the issues in the MCAS software which have been blamed for the recent crashes, we need to ensure this kind of situation never happens again. We also need to question whether other unexplained aviation disasters over the past few years were also caused by software problems,” she said.

“We believe that anyone working to design, build or test software systems that operate in high risk environments such as transport, health, mining and more, should be required to demonstrate minimal levels of knowledge, skills and ethical conduct so the public can feel confident that these systems are trustworthy.”

IP3 at WSIS 2019

IP3 will once again be presenting a Thematic Workshop at WSIS in Geneva from 8 to 12 April 2019. The workshop is titled “How do we maximise the benefits of Innovative 4.0 technologies, without unnecessary risks and consequences?”.

As Innovative 4.0 Technologies including AI and algorithmic decision-making bring economic and societal benefits in many areas of our human endeavors.

The workshop will discuss:

  1. Life and Enterprise with Industry 4.0 to Society 5.0 and the 5th Machine Age—investments, the landscape, disruptive technologies, and Economic Opportunities. A flavour of the growth of the 5th Machine Age, and the hottest trends.
  2. Cyber-security – A multi-disciplinary approach: Why everyone must be involved, Examples like Australia including in the school curriculum.
  3. Initiatives in promoting IT professionalism across Europe – The standardisation of all four pillars of the ICT profession in Europe is led by TC428 which is part of the European Committee for Standardisation. It is supported by IT Professionalism Europe network which brings together stakeholders to exchange best practice in maturing the IT profession. 
  4. Frameworks to support digital skills – People are the distinctive factor. Frameworks can help make digital skills visible.
  5. What is IFIP doing in response to these challenges?

For more about the WSIS and the IFIP IP3 session go to
https://www.itu.int/net4/wsis/forum/2019/Agenda

Brenda Aynsley Immediate Past Chair passes away

The IFIP IP3 board and members were saddened to hear of the passing of Brenda Aynsley. Brenda served as IP3 Chair for six years and inspired all who worked with her with her passion for Professionalism, Trust in Computing, Ethics, and Gender issues.  She demonstrated superb leadership qualities. In my opinion a good leader:

  • Lives the ideals that they evangelize
  • Gets you to do something you don’t necessarily agree with
  • Is consistent in their behaviour and attitude, but still has the courage to change her mind

Brenda embodied all these qualities and more,  and leaves us with a legacy we will continue in her memory. I know I will always consider “what would Brenda do in this situation?”.

Brenda would hate me using this picture but to me, it epitomizes the strong woman she was. Despite undergoing Chemotherapy, she still travelled to Geneva in May 2016 to attend the WSIS forum.

Many members sent messages to wish her farewell,  and many more have sent messages of condolence.

Immediate Past President of IFIP, Leon Strous “Brenda was tireless in explaining and promoting the good cause of professionalism. During her period as chair, IP3 was more solidly embedded in the IFIP structure which benefitted the promotion of it. She also contributed many times to events organized by UN organizations like ITU and UNESCO about (first) the Millennium Development Goals and (later) the Sustainable Development Goals. She strongly believed that assisting developing countries in achieving professionalism in their ICT workforce would contribute to achieving the SDGs. And this was advocated in many workshops in Geneva and other places.  It was a privilege for me to have known Brenda and to have worked with her on the goals of our community. She was a true driving force, sometimes impatient but always optimistic that ultimately the goals would be achieved. A storyteller with a great sense of humour. She will be dearly missed.”

“Dear Brenda, I came to know that you are not well. Prayers of mine, my wife Sasani and kids are with you. I also want to thank you for all the support you have given me, especially the start you gave me in South Australia, which created the path for me to get to where I am today, becoming a board director at ACS, President of CSSL with which I have changed CSSL for good with a few historic milestones and a Board member of IFIP. All this was started because of the opportunity you gave me on my arrival in Australia. Stay strong.  Be happy for all what you have done for this world including people like me. ” – Yasas V. Abeywickrama from Sri Lanka (read to Brenda before she died).

Yasas also shared this link to an interview that Brenda did five years ago. She tells of her career and her vision for the IT Industry

“Brenda was a wonderful friend to so many people and a doughty campaigner for the causes she took up. She really made a difference and her spirit will live on for many years through all the people whose lives she touched. A great person and an awesome example to us all” – Roger Johnson (BCS), a founding member of IP3, who served as Chair before Brenda.

“Brenda passed away this morning, finally being released from the burden of her illness. She will be sorely missed as a friend and colleague but her legacy lives on through our commitment to her ideals.” – Adrian Schofield, Chair SAC, IITPSA Fellow.

“We have lost a strong leader and great friend. I can still hear her encouraging words, “We are making progress!”, as she was always the optimist. She will be missed. ” – Brenda Byers, past CIPS representative, and Director.

The ACS posted a fitting tribute to Brenda “Honorary Life Member and Fellow of ACS Brenda Aynsley OAM passed away on Sunday, 12 August after a long battle with illness. Brenda was an incredible champion of both ACS and the broader ICT profession. She holds the distinction of being the first female President of ACS, befitting her strong advocacy on diversity and inclusion. Brenda was ACS President 2014-2015, and held Vice President portfolios in 2002-2003 and 2010-2011.” – read more of this tribute to read more about this amazing woman

Anyone who knew Brenda is invited to add a comment to this page, simply send me an email to mderoche@ipthree.org and I will add it. We will share it with Sharon, her spouse, and lifelong partner.