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For several years, most debates about ethics and information technology (IT) have focused on issues of professional ethics and issues of privacy and security. The professional aspects of ethics in IT concern preserving and developing a successful reputation through tasks completions. In this context, the worker is constantly behaving well i.e. a case of character and action. Ethics now seems to be an inclusive term covering morality, value and justice, in addition to character and action.
However, the recent developments in IT and business have created cases of new concerns in ethics. Critics now wonder whether removing a job from one country to another in order to exploit lower paid workers and probably avoid heavy tax are ethical, business or economic issues (Schultz, 2006).
Offshoring and outsourcing of jobs creates the advantage of a social context by providing lower wages. These have become new ethical problems created by flexibility of the IT concept of “availability at any location”.
These new developments have made IT rise beyond organizational borders in covering end users, supply chains, partners, countries, and continents in the broad picture. These are among the issues which have necessitated the governments across the globe to collaborate and develop comprehensive and detailed laws regarding the use of information technology.
As new and unpredictable uses of information technology arise with the regulations, so do new and unpredictable ethical problems. IT is a part of the human world of relations, actions and institutions. Therefore, we expect interactions with the world of IT neither to bring predictable ethical problems nor predictable solutions.
For instance, the creations of online downloading sites of copyrighted materials to promote sales, or as a form of charity, or to promote mediocre contents demonstrate how users can manipulate IT systems where ethical principles are not clear. People can make digital copies at will, and these copies are available to anyone on the network.
The issue is whether it is a mere act of a friendship sharing information, which is ethical, or whether it is an illegal act, which is an unethical practice violating copyright laws. These instances are likely to create ethical dilemma to the comprehensive laws regulating IT industry.
Conversely, if the comprehensive laws cover such unpredictable uses and results of IT industry, then the users are acting ethically and legally. Some problems of ethics associated with the development of social media, such as dating and readily available sex partners and spamming raise serious issues of ethics and the role of IT in perpetuating them (Robert, 1995).
Regulations of IT
There are diverse cultural and ethical perspectives created by information technology and communication around the global and their possible resolutions. These are genuine global information ethics, which need to be regulated as the industry continues to experience exponential growths.
Therefore, the governments of the world in coming up with comprehensive laws to regulate the global IT industry is on the right step in protecting individuals, organizations, partners, territories and nations. This led to the development of a framework for global ethics provided in the form of the Earth Charter so as to realize a shared vision of a sustainable global society.
Information technology ethics use this framework to determine how information and technology can be used responsibly to develop a future that is economically and ecologically sustainable, and culturally and socially just (Hongladarom and Ess, 2007).
The regulation formalizes expression of values and embodies cultural norms, which sometimes may clash with the values in information technology. The IT and regulations are contiguous with the normative ethics of the originating culture. Therefore, both the law and technology can constrain behaviour according to the value system that they express. These are significant implications of the spread and adoption of the IT around the globe.
Technological developments presuppose the availability of informational content to be stored, communicated and processed. Adopting and using such technology is, therefore, essentially dependent upon the legal and normative rules that determine the accessibility and regulation of information to be stored, manipulated and disseminated through technology.
Regulations that specify the legal and technical factors for use of information are necessary so as to control the adoption and usage IT systems that process such information. As the IT information availability increases, the provision of informational content has equally become a matter of interest to both the nations that generate information and those that are net information consumers for different reasons, of course.
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The nations that develop and export information technologies enforce their particular ethical and legal standards for regulations of end users. Thus, they effectively spread their value systems and regulations requirements alongside their technologies to other nations. Issues of ethical and control of information tend to rotate around the development of contents and gathering of personal information.
Regulating controls label the requirements, and in some instances, the authors of informational contents protect them under intellectual property or data privacy. However, the US and the European Union economic and political dominance tend to influence regulations of information technology.
Each of these powers has aggressively tended to promote their own approaches to information technology control. This way, they have displaced and overwhelmed the development of other countries from developing their informational control systems.
Regulations and business
Government regulations can be useful or harmful to businesses. The nature and degree of the comprehensive laws developed by governments in regulating the IT sector can have both positive and negative effects across the globe. Nations which have enormous controls, and influences on the regulations will tremendously benefit. At the same time, some degree of the regulations may results in developing of moral, social and just society.
In order for IT to grow globally, the comprehensive laws developed should be essential regarding intellectual property, sensible approaches to contract laws, willingness to enforce the contracts, and efficient systems of handling bankruptcy in case of rapidly changing technology overtakes a business. At the same, the law should provide strong protections for freedoms of persons and expressions (Gentzoglanis and Henten, 2010).
IT business represents unpredictable changes and developments. The structure of the laws should accommodate the future course of the information revolution in different nations. For instance, the law should ensure availability of funding for new IT ventures and linear concepts in the manner of funding processes. This is because such instances affect the growth and development of new IT ventures in all nations. Therefore, it is an issue global concern.
This is a critical concept of new developments in IT and businesses, which usually upsets and challenges the old models of businesses, monopolies, and introduces new ways of tasks performances. The idea is that players in the IT sector should also operate within the laws when raising capital for their new ventures. The concept of law to ensure funding is an enabling factor for the growth, adoption and proliferation IT.
Value of IT
In developing regulations and ethical use of IT systems, we should always have in mind the positive feature of information technology as its potential to contribute to the increase in human consciousness by making more knowledge available in wide setup. Conversely, we must also beware of its questionable applications that can propel destructions of human or the environment.
Regulators must realize that the functional characteristics that make IT so valuable do not operate in a restricted or highly regulated environment.
Valuable applications such as speed of information processing, information storage capacity, availability of information at any location, and straightforward reproduction of information, can work well provided the users operate within the global laws. Such applications work better with a scope of the organizations as a whole, and potentially well with global scope where information sharing is part of the business.
In realizing the value of IT to human and environment, governments should focus on the prevention of harmful practices in serving needs of human and environment. Therefore, preventing harm in information technology use becomes an essential element of fixing serious problem that causes the greatest harm to human and environment. Therefore, ethical use and regulation should also focus on protecting vulnerable groups within a society to prevent IT harm from coming to end users (Richard, Robert, Tora and Neu, 2003).
Users and regulator must take into account that IT is not neutral. Its use provokes various changes that can result into consequences beyond human comprehension. Technological innovations often strive to build a new and incompatible order on top of what exists. We should use it as a means and enabler for other ends.
Gentzoglanis, A. and Henten, A., 2010. Regulation and the Evolution of the Global Telecommunications Industry. Massachusetts: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited.
Hongladarom, S. and Ess, C., 2007. Information Technology Ethics: Cultural Perspectives. London: Idea Group.
Richard, O., Robert, H., Tora, K. and Neu, R., 2003. The Global Course of the Information Revolution: Recurring Themes and Regional Variations. Santa Monica, CA: RAND.
Robert, A., 1995. Universal Access to E-Mail: Feasibility and Societal Implications. California: RAND.
Schultz, R. A., 2006. Contemporary issues in ethics and information technology. London: Idea Group.