Raising Ethical Awareness In Systems Development

Alastair Irons and Paul Kelly


The paper explores the profile of ethical issues within the professional computing community, particularly amongst systems developers. It explores why awareness of ethical issues in systems development is not high, with what implications for systems development and how attitudes might be changed and supported. To help address these issues collaboration was sought with several leading UK organisations. Their involvement in an ‘ethical workshop’ and follow-up in-house research was planned. After showing early enthusiasm, each partner organisation withdrew from the project. Whilst addressing the original issues, the paper also examines why organisations are reluctant to discuss and explore the ethical aspects of systems development, and suggests alternative techniques for encouraging their involvement in ethical research. Although the planned collaborative activity has been forestalled, the experience has demonstrated that methods for involving companies in constructive ethical debate require further research. There is much work to be done to convince organisations that they will benefit from a raising of ethical awareness within their system development environments.