BCS professional codes


During the past years and recent time, the role of the British Computer Society (BCS) has become important. Such that for anyone to take up a profession as ICT (information communication technology) and IS (information systems) personnel, the codes of practice and ethic has to be bases of delivering their duties.

However, critically looking at the codes of practice and ethics which focuses upon the (public interest, duty to the employer and clients, duty to the profession and professional competence and integrity) with practices of some personnel in the profession who are supposed to be bound by the codes of practice and ethics, one would wonder if these codes of practice and ethics are just for the books.

The British Computer Society (BCS) might have set the standard as a guide for anyone who want to be in the profession and would desire to work and practice in the United Kingdom and even members that will desire to work outsides it shores will also be bound by the codes of practice and ethics. However, when it comes to actual workplace situation there are lot deviations from the codes of practice and ethics with irrelevant excuses or shifting of blames.

Many organisations, just like the British Computer Society (BCS) have their own codes of conducts that guides anyone that is employed in the organisation. However, situations that some employee found themselves have lead to some going against the guides.

Consider the scenario below, which is a real life scenario that I was involved and some other that happened in my country.

Working in a bank in Nigeria, were the economy condition is telling on everyone. Whether, rich or poor, and with a lot fraudulent activity everywhere. I would have been able enrich myself by leveraging on my (IT) information technology knowledge and the privilege that was attached to my profile in the organisation that I was working. Dealing with merchants that were illiterate, who transact in millions of Nigerian it would have been an easy transaction to consummate. The fact that I am been bound by the organisation codes of conduct and my believes as a person, made me to carry out my duties without considering those options.

However, some other person never considered those option but went ahead to defraud the bank that he was working for to the tune of N80M (eighty million Naira) an equivalent of $322,000 (three hundred and twenty two British Pounds). Though the employee was later caught, prosecuted and jailed.

Considering the two scenarios, there was opportunity for each person to do what is right, but later preferred to act based on selfish intentions.

The two scenarios above are all workplace situations, where there was opportunity to abide by the guide of the codes of practice of the organisation, but the second abused. The scenario below, the employee involved was thrown into dilemma because of the situation that he was involved in.

The information technology (IT) person involved did not have a way out as he was threatened and his family kidnapped. So that he can avail them opportunity to gain access in to the organisation IT room so that they can use a particular software to download password that will enable them access data base of the organisation. They eventually succeeded, because there was no opportunity given to the person involved.

The scenarios could have been any where, people work everyday with different mindset based on situation which they find themselves.

Gotterban (2001) mentioned the problem of software developers with regards to ethics and traced it down to a constricted understanding of professional responsibility. He went further on to look at ways in which they shy away from taking responsibility of their work.

In the summer of 1991 a particular case was recorded when a key telephone issues due to outage happened in the United state when three lines of codes were altered in a multi-million-line signalling plan due the introduction of an error. Since the three line change was viewed as unimportant, it was not tested. He went further to say that, systems are not only interrupted but lives are also lost due software issues. A New Jersey inmate under a computer monitored house arrest removed the electronic anklet that he was wearing. However, when it called a second computer to report the incidence the first computer that it was reported to was busy, and when it was available it never dialled back. This particular incidence led the murder. In another situation an innocent person was short by the French police because of error message received from a computer. In 1986 two cancer patients were killed due to software error inside a computer controlled X-ray machine.

Gotterbarn (2001) went further to say that most time when issues like the incidence above happen, computing practitioners always find the way of shifting responsibility instead of acknowledging that the mistake is from them. Like apportioning blame to failure to build up a dependable system. While "flaws in computer programme are not error from the programmer but were "bugs found in the programme. Or they will say that is computer error and some times the inability of the client to specify what he really wanted. It is clear therefore that from the scenarios cited above, the code of practice that lay enfaces on the "acceptance of responsibility for your work and that of other colleagues who are defined under a given context as working under you is been breached.

Avison, D., Wilson, D.N. (2002) in their journal on IT (information technology) and professional ethic, looking at a case study of a telecommunication firm called One.Tel in Australia. They used the Australian computer society codes of ethic as a guide to issues of the case of Onetel, while comparing it to a work place situation. In their examination of the information system strategy employed by the Australian telecommunication company One.Tel, which contributed to down fall of One.Tel telecommunication business brings into question the professional and ethic of the information personnel and the management at One.Tel. The paper further went ahead to mention how a billing system that is very important to the telecommunication business was left in the hand of a young programmer who work all night and day to produce result. However, specification, documentation and standards suffered in this scenario. Though, this approach of cajoling the programmer to produce result by the senior management staff is seen as bulling. Their application of the situations that transpired in the case of One.Tel before bankruptcy to the Australian computer society codes of ethics, showed how the codes of ethics was fully overlooked in the course of discharging their duty.

It is clear, therefore, that from the scenarios above, issues of codes of practice and the extent of application in a workplace situation will remain a potential issue for IT industry. This is because most practitioners do not understand the codes of ethics and not to mention it application and the membership of a professional body is not a criteria for practice. Whether it is the British Computer Society or any other society, people tends to act based on their prevailing environment, believe and conditions. Not bothering if they are being guide by a set of codes of practice and ethics or not.


  • (2004, September). The British Computer Society. Codes of Good Practice. Retrieved December 15, 2009, from http://www.bcs.org//upload/pdf/cop.pdf
  • Gotterban, D. (2001). Science and Engineering Ethics. Information and Professional Responsibility. Retrieved December 15, 2009, from http://www.ccsr.cse.dmu.ac.uk/jpapers/papers/Gotterbarn_2001_see.pdf
  • Avison, D., Wilson, D.N (2002). IT Failure and Professional Ethics: The One.Tel Case. Retrieved January 2, 2010, from http://www.cse.unsw.edu.au/~se4921/PDF/OneTel.pdf

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