Ethics in ICT, and in particular how user data is ethically treated, has come up for debate several times in recent years. With no strict guidelines in place for individuals, businesses or government, there is perhaps a bit too much space for interpretation and bending of the rules in certain instances.

This is why the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) is looking to create a code of ethics for those in the ICT sector, offering guidelines as to what should and should not be done from an ethical standpoint.

Said code of ethics is expected to released digitally in September, where it will be open for comment, debate and amendments, whereafter a paper version will be published sometime in 2021.

Confirming this is Moira de Roche, non-executive director of the Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa (IITPSA), who last week led an IFIP delegation participating in the WSIS Forum 2020 High-Level Policy Session 10: Ethical Dimensions of Information and Knowledge Societies.

One of the significant outcomes from the session is that there there area myriad code of ethics currently in place, creating confusion and ultimately necessitating the need for a unified standard across the ICT industry.

“It is of great concern to us that there are so many codes of ethics out there – more than 170 at last count, and at least 70 of those dealing with AI. This causes confusion and allows individuals and organisations to choose the code that suits them best,” notes de Roche.

“To support our role, we have set up an IFIP code of ethics as an exemplar. The IFIP code will be published digitally in September this year, following final approval by IFIPs General Assembly, and in book format in 2021. The code of ethics gives voice to values – there should be one or two exemplars that set the standard and conform to a consultative process: substantial codes of ethics that go beyond saying ‘be good’,” she adds.

While the IITPSA’s role is to look at what IT professionals do from an ethical standpoint, de Roche believes that governments too stand to benefit from a code of ethics in terms of how it handles and enables ICT for its citizens.

“We encourage governments to procure digital products and services from certified ICT professionals. IFIP can guide governments on this, and assist with adapting the IFIP code of ethics as a guiding tool and ensuring that procurement processes for digital products and services are from trustworthy organisations,” de Roche concludes.

Whether governments will indeed take up the IITPSA’s suggestion, remains to be seen, but with digital transformation from of mind for many countries, it may prove prudent to do so.

[Image – Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash]