Computers and Society

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April 15, 2013 by Ozgur Ozden

Responsibilities of computing professionals to society divide into several parts such as responsibilities to users – clients, employers, other professionals and finally the public. Each of these responsibilities must  delicately fulfilled by professionals to produce  a valuable service to the society. Now, let us try to analyze these responsibilities.
Computing professionals are responsible to users or clients because this group will be mainly using the devices or the software designed by the professionals. They are simply end-users. When designing a software or a device, t

he professional also needs consider the effect of this software on the users and the society as a whole.  Research and tests must be done over and over again to ensure the quality of the product. Otherwise improper running software for example in healthcare might create a disaster for users. In fact a Device called Therac 25 produced by company AECL to treat cancer by radiation caused 3 deaths and several wounded between the years of 1985 to 1987 because of software malfunction (Leveson & Turner, 1993). The professional must produce its work in agreement with given tasks and companies safety policy together with the highest technical standards. In order to achieve these highest standards, professional should closely follow/read latest developments in his field as well as the other related fields. Quality and safety of the work produced will directly depend on how equipped the professional is .

Computer professionals are responsible to their employers as well. Most of the professionals are working for companies under strict contracts and expectations. Producing the require work and protecting the intellectual property of the employer, not revealing financial status of the company and being loyal to the company is also a huge responsibility of the professional.

Being responsible to its own members as well as other professionals is also play another important role.  Giving credit to others, referencing the original owner of the idea establishes solid respect among the professionals. Doing collaborative work strengthens relationship between the colleagues. Professionals with experience should guide the ones new to the sector and pass the ethical codes and norms to them.

Responsibilities to the public also play another very important role. IT professionals have responsibility to educate public about the proper use of new technology. What we mean by proper is that technology designed in alliance with the social norms and acceptance. They have to be sure that the system designed does not cause any harm and ensures safety of the public (Moller & Erdal, 2003). They have to be sure that technology does not violate religion, race, sex, age related norms which are really strict in some countries and groups.

One of the biggest organization Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) has prepared “Code of Ethics” for his members and student members to underline the ethical codes and the expectations from each member. This detailed code actually explains the responsibilities of a computing professional in much more details and can be accessed at http://www.acm.org/about/code-of-ethics. Many professions have such codes written to its members to establish a common understanding and language among the members and the society. But i believe that whatever the written codes are it all depends on human being.

References:

1- Moller K. and Erdal T., 2003, Corporate responsibility towards society: A local perspective, European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, [Online], Available at: http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/pubdocs/2003/27/en/1/ef0327en.pdf. [Accessed 07 March 2013]

2- N. G. Leveson and C. S. Turner, An investigation of the Therac-25 accidents, Computer, 26(7): 18–41, 1993

3-  ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct:[Online] Available from: http://www.acm.org/about/code-of-ethics  [Accessed 08 March 2013]

4 – Andrew A. Adams, Rachel McCrindle [2012] Pandora’s Box: Social and Professional Issues of the Information Age. England: John Wiley & Sons Ltd

5- Herman Roozen, Image [online] Available from: http://www.microsoft.com/netherlands/images/Perssite/cartoon1.jpg [Accessed 08 March 2013]

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