According to Melden (2013), Ethical theories play an important role in every business structure. ICT infrastructure is no exception from the need of ethical theories in their business operations. The moral values and ethical codes help in effective decision making and forming an effective working environment for ICT.
In this essay, an analysis of different types of ethical theories has been studied for understanding their impact. ICT is useful for developing the business structure and operations (Pratt et al. 2012). Hence, Australian Computer Society has been selected for understanding the synchronization of ethical theories with the codes of ethics.
Ethical theories and their relevance to ICT
Rights: The rights are set of benefactors that help in protecting the society. They are given highest priority in different types of ethical theories. Rights are considered as ethically correct, and they are valid for endorsement of a large population (Donnelly 2013). The individuals have to be bestowed rights for attaining the ability and resources from others. For example- if a person had borrowed anything from his/her friend. The friend has a right for getting the thing back from the person. The right theory is complicated on a larger scale. One has to decipher the characteristics of the rights that are in vogue in the society.
Virtue: The ethical theory of virtue is used for judging the person from his/her character. The actions of people are based on the immediate situation and hence, it cannot be considered for judging any person. The theory uses reputation, motivation and morals of the people for analyzing the nature of the person (Annas 2015). It uses ratings for an irregular and unusual behavior of the person and considers them unethical. For example- if any person plagiarizes a project and his peer notices it, then the peer would judge the person leniently and understand his character of cheating. However, Virtue theory lacks consideration of the changes that can happen in any person’s morale.
Relativist: Relativist is an ethical theory that is taken from relativism. Relativism can be defined as the philosophical position of an individual that believes in equality of all points (Lyons 2012). All the views have an equal validation, and the truth is just relative to any individual in relativism. The characteristic of relativist can be divided into three categories, cognitive, moral and situational. Cognitive is the affirmation for all relative truths. It means there could be no system of truth having priority over other. It would affect the standardization of truth. Morals are a relative function for any social group. They are constructed or formed with the specific group.
Objectivist: Objectivist philosophy promotes the existence of moral codes that are valid universally. It has been formed for contradicting subjectivism. Subjectivism refers to the theory where everyone would form their theory about moral values and code of ethics (Orange 2013). It would lead to a great mishap, and no law would prevail. Moreover, the moral values and code of ethics would contradict. Hence, Objectivism was formed and applied universally. Objectivism is a less controversial system. The people do not have the same culture all over the world. It is a hodgepodge of various cultures and subcultures. The objectivism helps in forming a standard for defining moral values and ethical codes (Enoch 2014). It is helpful in solving various issues and misconduct of general public. Subjectivism philosophies do not abide by any proper standard that is followed by objectivism.
Consequentialist: Consequentialists are the people following consequentialism. It can be defined as the moral that is bounded to produce right types of overall outcomes (Burch-Brown 2014). The term 'overall outcomes' for an action is based on all the results that are perceived from any action. The overall point of morality can be parted in three points, spreading happiness and relieving sufferings, promoting the survival of species and creating freedom space for living and thinking. If the person accepts these factors of morality, then he or she is termed to be consequentialist. According to Thomas (2016), consequentialist is controversial as many of non-consequentialist have views such as performing one’s duty, obeying nature, respecting rights, following one’s heart, and being reasonable.
Deontology: The ethical theory of Deontology has shown that people should stick to the Information and Communication Technology duties and obligations (Korner and Volk 2014). It would help them in taking effective decision without harming any ethics of IT sector. Deontology is an important factor that should be followed by all processes of ICT. The people who are part of ICT must abide by the rules and regulations that are considered ethically correct. For example- all the deals made by the deontologist must be unbiased and hold true for each stakeholder. The deontology has a very serious flaw. Deontology theory lacks any logical or rational basis for reasoning and decision making (Neta 2015). However, the person adhering deontological theory would produce consistent decisions for the set of duties.
The rights are given highest priority amongst all other types of ethical theories. It is based on the benefits provided to the person after standardizing the moral values on a universal level (Donnelly 2013). There are many rights made by humans and they are right to speech, right to property, right to privacy and much more (Shelton 2015). They are considered as ethically correct and they are valid for endorsement of large population. One has to determine the rights for upholding the society goals and prioritizing the ethics of the society.
This theory is based on activity and action of a person. The action is termed as right if any righteous person would do the action for the immediate situation (Annas 2015). The theory points out that the ethical theories and moral values should be based on the demand of the circumstances and situations. According to Aristotle’s morale theory by Salkever (2014), virtue is a trait of character that is needed by humans for living well and flourishing.
Relativist is an ethical theory that can be defined as the philosophical position of an individual (Lyons 2012). The individual has an equal validation and the truth is just relative for him or her. It is a theory that depends on relative truth for justifying any action right or wrong. The characteristic of relativist can be divided into three categories, cognitive, moral and situational.
Objectivist philosophy is based on the existence of moral codes for doing all the activities (Enoch 2014). It depends on moral values for judging whether the action is right or not. The people have to abide by this theory for avoiding any kind of confusion or overlapping of moral values. It helps in forming a standard theory about moral values and code of ethics. Objectivism helps in forming a standard for defining moral values and ethical codes (Lau 2014). It is helpful in solving various issues and misconduct of general public.
It is a theory based on the outcomes of any action. The action can be considered right if it provides the best outcomes or consequences (Burch-Brown 2014). Best consequences are based on the level of happiness and maximization of benefits from the actions. According to Mill's utilitarianism by Ryan (2015), the overall point of morality can be parted in three points, spreading happiness and relieving sufferings, promoting the survival of species and creating freedom space for living and thinking.
In this ethical theory, the actions are considered right if it has occurred in accordance with the human principle and moral rules (Korner and Volk 2014). There are moral and ethical obligations in this theory. The rational and most suitable rules are required for specifying the standards for comparison. According to Kantian Ethics by Hanna (2013), Deontology is an important factor that should be followed by all the people who are part of ICT.
Table 1: Comparison of different ethical theories
(Source: Created by author)
Australian Computer Society Constitution has its own code of ethics for upholding and advancing the dignity, honour and effectiveness (Acs.org.au. 2016). It has helped in maintaining the professionalism in the operations of ACS. The ACS code of ethics consists of following factors,
Honesty is a common quality seen in every ethical code. ACS also abide by the quality of honesty in their operations and services. It is important in ACS to be honest in their presentation of knowledge, skills, products and services (Acs.org.au. 2016). Primacy of public Interest shows that the public interest must be kept above all other interests. The other interests may include personal, sectional or business interests. ACS follows this policy for providing their customers with complete satisfaction and benefits.
Competence is very important for any society and it helps in thoroughly clarifying the stakeholders (Leicester 2016). ACS has a competent working environment and the stakeholders are also diligent. Enhancement of life quality deals with the enhancement of the quality of life of the related people. These related people are somehow affected by the work and operations. ACS abides by this policy for improving the life quality of its employees, customers, clients and stakeholders. Professional development is the process by which any individual develop or make progress in their attributes (McCoy and Park 2014). ACS has encouraged its workers and employees for improve their performance as well as support their co-workers for improvement in their work.
The grammatical framework has some functions like,
WHO- Stakeholders Ethics
WHERE- Moral Ethics
WHAT- Virtue or Character Ethics
HOW- Deontological Ethics
WHEN- Contractual Ethics
EXTENT- Ethical Decision Making
Each of the ACS codes is related to the ethical theories followed in ICT. The relation can be understood by applying grammatical framework to ACS code of ethics.
WHO: ACS has upheld and advanced the dignity, honour and effectiveness of the Information technology from professional point of view (Dowling and Lai 2012). It has kept the high standards for competence to maintain the integrity of IT profession. Hence, ACS follows the rights of stakeholder’s ethics.
WHERE: ACS has implied conscientious objections in their IT work for introducing kindness, patience, courage, humanity, and stewardship (Mithas et al. 2013). They have regarded their needs for environmental quality improvement.
WHAT: ACS has placed the interests of their customers and communities above their personal interests. It has enhanced the respect of their profession and members of the team. Hence, the Objectivist moral ethics is followed by ACS.
HOW: ACS has involved the moral ethics of honesty, trustworthiness, reliability and competence in their operations (Dowling and Lai 2012). They are true and honest to their customers and trustworthy for meeting the expectations of their stakeholders. Hence, ACS follows universal moral and ethical theories.
WHEN: ACS has increased the feelings of competence, personal satisfaction, and control for the people who are affected by their work. They do not attempt to increase their reputation by decreasing someone else’s reputation. Hence, relativist contractual ethics is followed by ACS.
WHY: ACS have distanced itself professionally from those members who are no longer a part of their society (Mithas et al. 2013). They terminate those members who are unethical in their behaviour and conduct. Hence, ACS has self-restraint, patience, and disciplined attributes in their working nature.
EXTENT: ACS follows fairness, sincerity, restitution, correction, justice and harmony for evaluating the business practices (Burmeister 2013). The internal and external procedures are reported for any identified unethical practice.
The essay has pointed out the ethical theories that are prevalent in ICT infrastructure. The ethical theories like ‘rights’, ‘objectivist’, ‘virtue’, ‘relativist’, ‘deontology’ and ‘consequentialist' have a profound impact on ICT infrastructure. Their comparison has shown that these ethical theories have complimented the moral values of human society.
The grammatical framework had been used for understanding the relation between Code of Ethics of ACS and the ethical theories. The code of ethics followed by ACS supports the ethical theories in ACS and their operations. Hence, the codes of ethics, ethical theories and moral values have profound impression and relevancy on ICT infrastructure for any society or company.
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