The Development of the ‘Ethical’ ICT Professional and the Vision of an Ethical On-line Society: How far Have we Come and Where are we Going?

Frances S. Grodzinsky


It has been a decade since Computer Ethics came into prominence within the field of computer science and engineering, changing not only the profession but the classroom as well. The commercialization and globalization of the World Wide Web has impacted us all, both producers and consumers alike. What was once the province of the few has become the virtual society of the multitudes. Ethical issues concerning security, privacy, information, identity, community and equity of access once contained and localized, have assumed additional complexity in the global environment. Every day, the front pages of our newspapers and magazines report violations of one sort or another.

This paper will address two questions: As we move into the 21st century, are we shaping ‘ethical’ information communication technology (ICT) professionals? Is our vision of an ‘ethical’ global on-line society a realistic one?

Part One will examine the education of ‘ethical’ ICT professionals who will be instrumental in the integration of computer technology into 21st century society. It will also focus on the changing role of the professor of computer ethics and the usefulness of ethical codes. Part Two will focus on the vision of an ethical on-line society. It will ask whether a moral dialogue can take place concerning the structure and policies of on-line society and reflect on how computer professionals, those of us creating technology, need to define and communicate our mission vis-a-vis humankind. If we focus only on normative models, we will be sacrificing the hope of a ‘good’ society for merely a civil one. I fear that without moral dialogue, we will lose all sense of shared community values.