RMU - C&IS - Valerie J. Harvey, R.T.(R), Ph.D.

IT Ethics Discussion Topics

According to Nancy Leveson, author of Safeware, "treating technology apart from its impact on society can lead not only to negative social consequences, but also to unrealistic and unusable technology." - Leveson, Nancy G. Safeware: System Safety and Computers. New York: Addison-Wesley, 1995.

Asking Questions About Information Technology

Here are questions to ask when planning new information technology:

RMU students (currently working in the field of information management or planning to work in that field) must be well informed about problems and limitations of information management technology. Students are encouraged to propose responsible improvements to the design and implementation of data management systems in order to avoid problems such as:

Students can play an active role. Student projects should develop prototypes to address technical issues identified. In some cases, proposed technical solutions and/or insights gained can be shared with industries and with those working on legislative responses to problems. Students should acquire understanding of the role of regulation and legislated responses affecting use of information technology.

As the complexity of information systems grows and dependence on data management technology increases, it will be important to monitor and respond systematically to issues such as those cited above. Technological problems which arouse consumer concern and lead to legislative treatment obviously deserve attention in information systems education.

After completing their course of studies, RMU students should be ready to address urgent information system problems.

Information Systems in Context:
Gaining a Broader Perspective

Management information systems have traditionally required the integration of technology with business functions and applications. Modern computer technology has given business the capability to implement systems of far greater complexity than ever before; often they interlink many locations within a company, or even link many different businesses together. There are often complex issues concerning the use of data; how it can be accurately maintained, how the meaning of the data elements can be transferred along with the data itself, and how privacy issues should be addressed.

Here are some of the complex issues involved in developing and implementing some of the major information systems in use today. Topics were chosen that enable students to examine the interaction of information systems, management, and marketing requirements, with an emphasis on the following questions:

  1. What original business needs led to implementation of this technology?
  2. What problems have arisen in the use of the technology?
  3. What is the significance of the technology from the standpoint of information systems, management, and marketing?
  4. What improvements can you propose from the information systems standpoint?
  5. What management, marketing, and legal constraints exist that impact the design of these information systems?

Students currently working in the field of information management or planning to work in that field must be well informed about problems and limitations of data management technology. Students are encouraged to propose responsible improvements to the design and implementation of information management systems. Proposed technical solutions and/or insights gained can be shared with industries and with those working on legislative responses to problems. Students should acquire understanding of the role of regulation and legislated responses affecting use of information technology.

  1. In viewing each information system, the student will gain an understanding of the underlining reasons for real or potential problems that can occur in the use of the system. Based on this understanding, the student is encouraged to propose approaches which will avoid problems using existing information technology and/or management solutions.
  2. For managers, it is important to realize that problems in information systems will almost certainly lead to reaction from consumers, the media, and the government. What are current topics which have received attention in the media that has led to legislative action? What are the key points in the proposed legislation and how can the proposal be analyzed from (at least) two perspectives:

    A. How should management in the affected industry respond to the proposed legislation? In an age of increasing government regulation, managers must be capable of analyzing proposed legislation to assess its impact on their business and be able to provide input to the legislative process prior to passage of a bill.

    B. How does the consumer, who will be affected by the proposed legislation, respond? Viewing legislation from both viewpoints will help students to analyze it from a balanced perspective.

Contributors: Valerie Harvey, Linda Ford, Karen Bilotta, Cynthia Grese, Fred Kohun