Helena Dulce Campos
Departament of Information Systems, Universidade do Minho, Campus de Azurém 4800-058 Guimarães, Portugal
Luis Amaral
Departament of Information Systems, Universidade do Minho, Campus de Azurém 4800-058 Guimarães, Portugal
Keywords: Information systems, codes of ethics, professional societies, professional competences, professional ethics.
Abstract: On the area of Information Systems Technology (IST) there is a multiplicity of competences and
knowledge. In order the professionals may carry them out with success and great advantage, the existence of
a structured and standardized framework that could be used as a reference for any organization, is needed.
Parallel to this problematic there still exists the acknowledgement of the impossibility of a technological life
without ethics. So, a Code of Ethics for Professionals of Information Systems - CEPIS it will be proposed.
Looking to the Portuguese situation related to
professions, competences and code of ethics of the
IST professionals, we could conclude that there does
not exist such a standard. Therefore, the objective of
this work is to develop a model - CEPIS - Code of
Ethics for Professionals of Information Systems -
that standardises the ethical behaviour of IST
professionals adapted to the portuguese situation. In
order to achieve this objective, we propose: (1) a
pattern of organizational and operational
competences and respective professional skills; (2)
the principles and obligations of the professionals
for each competence; (3) a code of ethics for each of
the identified competences – Organizational and
Operational - and Professional Skills.
Ethical questions have been worrying human kind
since humans’ beings began to live together because
ordered, peaceful and productive communities are
not possible without guide rules to know how, when
and what one should or should not do.
As time went by, communities spread largely,
their rules became codes of behaviour in order to
ensure everyone knew about their rights and duties
and punishments were established when
community’s ethical rules were violated. When
professionals formed their own communities, they
developed codes of behaviour which were needed
for the well-being of their members and others,
namely, with the Hippocratic Oath in the medical
community. In the outset, the Information Systems
(IS), unlike Law and Medicine, were not a
controlled profession (Davison, 2000). Later,
professional associations recognized the need of
establish standards of ethical behaviour for their own
protection as well as for the protection of those they
Computer-related legislation started in the late
1970s. However, the need for ethical behaviour
among computer professionals was already
recognized by the late 1960s as the use of computers
quickly spread in academic and business
organizations. Because computer laws did not exist,
professional organizations initiated their own ethical
codes (OZ, 1992).
Historically, professional associations viewed
code of ethics as mechanisms to establish their status
as a profession or as a means to regulate their
membership and thereby convince the public that
they deserve to be self-regulating. Codes of ethics
have tended to list possible violations and threaten
sanctions for such violations (Gotterbarn et al,
The Association for Computing Machinery
(ACM) was pioneer of the first code, the Code of
Professional Conduct, was adopted in 1972. The
Dulce Campos H. and Amaral L. (2006).
In Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems - ISAS, pages 479-482
DOI: 10.5220/0002491004790482
latest ACM code, the Code of Ethics and
Professional Conduct was adopted in 1992 and takes
a new direction (Anderson et al, 1993). Others
organizations like Australian Computer Society
(ACS), American Society for Information Systems
(ASIS), Association of Information Technology
Professionals (AITP), British Computer Society
(BCS), Canadian Information Processing Society
(CIPS), Computer Society of India (CSI), Computer
Society of South Africa (CSSA), Data Processing
Management Association (DPMA), Hong Kong
Computer Society (HKCS), Institute for
Certification of Computer Professionals (ICCP),
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
(IEEE), Institute for Management of Information
System IMIS, Singapore Computer Society (SCS),
and Software Engineering Ethics and Professional
Practices (SEEPE), have their own code of ethics.
At Portugal exists an Information Systems
Association but does not exist a code.
A professional code of ethics must address specific
high-risk activities within the scope of daily
operations of the professionals´ work or activities
(Ferrel, 1999). A profession’s code of ethics is
perhaps its most visible and explicit enunciation of
its professional norms (Frankel, 1989).
It is essential maintain high levels of professional
competence by continually upgrading of the skills
and knowledge, to maximise the potential for
lifetime employability.
In order to reach our goal, as referred above, the
model will comprises three components that will be
detailed below.
3.1 A Pattern of Organizational and
Operational Competences and
Respective Professional Skills
A pattern of organizational and operational
competences and respective professional skills is
defined as a tridimensional matrix. The matrix
identifies and classifies a pattern of competences –
organizational and operational – and respective
skills and levels of professional responsibilities
adjusting to the respective importance, that the IST
have in the organizations, and always aiming at the
technological and methodological evolutions is
proposed. See table 1 and, figure 1 and 2 as an
example of an extract of the proposed matrix.
Business Analysis
Data Analysis
Technical Authority
Systems Design
Network Design
Database Design
Programming / Software Development
Safety Engineering
Software Engineering
Web Site Specialism
Systems Development
Systems Testing
Systems Ergonomics Human Factors
Media Creation
Systems Integration
Software Integration
Systems Installation/decommissioning
Installation & Integration
Installation & Implementation
Table 1: Extract of the one competences pattern matrix (Adapted from “BCS Skills Manager”).
3.2 Principles and Obligations of the
Professionals for Each
Identified the main competences and skills of the
IST professionals, it also have to be identified the
fundamental ethical principals, in order to achieve
their better performance. In a first analyse, these
principals will include generic moral imperatives,
more specific professional responsibilities in the
performance of the profession, imperatives of
organizational leadership and the biggest conformity
As a result of this work, it must be achieved a
proposal for a code of ethics consisting of two parts:
The principle fundamental ethics, immutable in
time and place, that is found above all philosophical
and political concept and who are equal in any
On the performing of each profession the
principle specific ethics can vary in time and place.
3.3 A Code of Ethics for Each of the
Identified Competences
In order to observe if there exists the concern and
practice of ethical professional attitudes at an
academic and organizational level, a fieldwork will
be developed.
For us, the term professionals not only include
academicals, professionals, researchers, executives
and consulters but also students of the IST area (who
will be the professionals of the near future) (Couger,
1989). So the fieldwork will be split into two great
sides: the academic and the organizational.
On the academic side, the work to be developed
consists of an analysis of how a course in particular
(Degree or MBA) prevents on their curriculum an
ethical formation of their students. Namely, if there
exists ethical disciplines that identify aspects that
leads to ethical behaviours and preoccupations; that
prepares them to deal with ethical questions; that
alerts them for what kind of ethical behaviour is
acceptable or not and that encourage them for better
On the organizational side, to give an answer to
one of the key problems referred on the development
of the code (the fact that the validation of the
individuals who were going to be influenced by the
code completely is apart), we proceed with the
fieldwork that will consist on the application of the
proposed CEPIS model, in the different
organizations and areas and that possesses a IST
department, hoping to obtain as a final result the
validation and the contribution of the model in the
enrichment and improvement of the performance of
the professionals in the IST communities. The great
Figure 1: Operational Competence – Systems Development.
finality would be that the own IST professionals will
test the proposed model in order to be validated
On the application of the code it is necessary to have
in mind the own requirements of each organisation,
the respective individual competences attributed to
their professionals; their culture; their mission; their
tradition; their strategic vision; their history; their
dimension; their image and their market, i.e. the
context were it is inserted. So, possibly there will be
found surprises and even interesting establishments.
To summarize a Code of Ethics for Professionals of
Information Systems – CEPIS model – has been
outlined. It is hoped that, once developed, this model
will represent a practical contribution to de existence
of a Code of Ethics that could be applied to the
Portuguese professionals.
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,, accessed on 5 October 2005.
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Figure 2: Professional skills - Business Analysis.