Technology has provided businesses with a phenomenal opportunity to grow their company and gain a competitive advantage. However, with this opportunity comes big responsibility. There are many ethical considerations for managers and decision makers to consider when integrating IT within their organization's framework.
There are several areas of moral dimensions to consider when using technology to support business operations and processes. Some of these areas relate directly to business activities, but others relate to societal and humanistic perspectives.
Here is a basic rundown of five of the ethical considerations:
• Information rights and obligations
Individuals have the right to privacy of personal information and it is important for any business to recognize the fact that any shared information given for business purposes should not be sold and/or abused for profit.
• Property rights & obligations
Owners of intellectual property have the right to expect and receive just compensation for their work. Due to the simplicity and ease of transmission of intellectual property with modern technology, it’s important for corporations and individuals to act responsibly with the use of information systems.
Laws and policies such as copyrights and patents exists to protect intellectual owners. These laws are only successful if society respects and acts responsibly, and unfortunately this doesn’t always occur. To combat the issue businesses should develop policies that have employees agree to non-disclosure agreements in regards to trade secrets and also outline a code of ethics that employees should follow.
It is difficult to establish a minimum level of information technology to protect intellectual property, the best that can be done is to integrate protects that prohibit copying or web transmission. With that solution, however, other ethical implications may arise that affect personal freedoms and rights.
• Accountability & control
As software is assimilated into business processes, organizations should not rush through the development and implementation process, to minimize the prevalence of bugs in the software that could derive harmful results.
Quality control is important and users must be mindful to not try and override the system. Additionally, developers should implement protective measures within the software to prevent users from overriding the software to make it act in such a way it was not intended for.
• System quality
All too often software is rushed to market in order to maintain or gain a competitive edge against other development companies. In most instances all bugs cannot be caught ahead of time, but developers have a responsibility to be sure that the majority of bugs have been fixed prior to release, especially the more serious bugs.
Unfortunately, often the stakeholders/managers that are promoting the software have unrealistic demands and put pressure on developers. To mitigate this, companies should have a policy in place that allows for ethical practice in development so as to maintain good quality control.
• Quality of life
Computers and automated systems should enhance life, not override it. While automation has brought a lot of good, some negative consequences have also arisen. Issues relating to spam, computer crime, identity theft, pornography, carpal tunnel syndrome and impact on family life have become visible. Information systems has allowed for 24/7 access and this can severely impact quality of life.
What’s important is that organizations and individuals recognize these issues and balance the positives and do not allow the negatives to override and affect quality of life. Just because access is available around the clock, this does not mean employees should be expected to be on call all of the time.
Technology is a grand opportunity for businesses, but it's also important for decision makers to understand the responsibility that comes with automation. It is vital to look at technology as a solution to a business problem, but to look at the bigger picture and see what other consequences could occur due to decisions made where technology is concerned.