Teaching information ethics at the business faculty and the open source software.


Grzegorz Wapinski
Assistant Professor
Department of Information Systems
Faculty of Business Administration
University of Gdansk


This paper will the current practice of teaching information ethics at the Faculty of Business Administration of University of Gdansk. The reference to the open source software is not accidental, as it solves, at least partially, the problem of software piracy.

As information technologies gain on importance, shifting from the support tools to the basic engine of economy, rising awareness to basic ethical issues of this field becomes more and more important. This seems to be especially important in places where future managers are being taught – all sorts of business schools, faculties of management etc. These new technologies are also creating problems which were either unknown or regarded as having minor importance in traditional ethical systems and everyday ethics.

In the particular case of the Faculty of Business Administration, University of Gdansk, attempts to find the viable solution to this problem are being made. At the level of the common curriculum for all the courses, the ethical issues are raised within the lecture on “Introduction to Information Systems”, either as elements of some topics (for example: databases, software development and acquisition), or as independent topics, such as legal issues and position of information systems in the society.

Within the curriculum of the “Information Systems” the issues of ethical importance are also raised during the courses on “Software Engineering”, “Usability Engineering”, and seminars. There is also the lecture on “Information Ethics”, devoted to discussion of some particular issues, such as privacy, intellectual property, influence of IT on workplace etc..

Because of the growing importance of open source software, and it must be admitted that it gains on popularity among students, it is strongly promoted during the lectures and seminars. For example the course on electronic publishing is based on open source solutions.

Open source software serves as a growing set of high quality and cost effective tools solving some real life IT problems. On the other hand it gives some perfect examples of, for example, real standards (contrary to so called “industry standards”). It also gives students a great chance to participate in project of different complexity, therefore training them in all the skills needed in a successful teamwork.

It must be admitted that including open source solutions within the curriculum does not come easy. One of the most common obstacles is a perception of open source as of something developed after hours and in garages. It comes as the shock when people promoting this software start to enumerate those alleged garages: IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems. There is also quite a popular argument that if it costs nothing, it can not be good. Some also argue about the quality, and the lack of successful business applications.

Despite doubts mentioned above, open source software enhances teaching of information ethics both on theoretical and practical levels.