Meaning of ICT ethics

Ethics is a set of moral principles that govern the behavior of a group or individual. Therefore, ICT ethics is set of moral principles that regulate the use of ICT.

Ethics are grounded in the notion of responsibility (as free moral agents, individuals, Organizations, and societies are responsible for the actions that they take) and Accountability (individuals, organizations, and society should be held accountable to others for the consequences of their actions).

The Importance of Ethics in ICT (Check)

Information is a source of power and, increasingly, the key to prosperity among those with access to it. Consequently, developments in ICT also involve social and political relationships. This makes ethical considerations on how important information is used.

Electronic systems now reach into all levels of government, into the workplace, and into private lives to such an extent that even people without access to these systems are affected in significant ways by them. New ethical and legal decisions are necessary to balance the needs and rights of everyone.

As in other new technological arenas, legal decisions lag behind technical developments. Ethics fill the gap as people negotiate how use of electronic information should proceed. The following notes define the broad ethical issues now being negotiated. Since laws deciding some aspects of these issues have been made, these notes should be read in conjunction with Legal Issues in Electronic Information Systems.

Unethical behavior in ICT

Unethical behavior in ICT is the incorrect use of ICT in a way that disturbs privacy of others or their intellectual property rights thereby creating ethical dilemmas. Unethical behavior in ICT includes:

1. Software piracy

Software piracy is the unauthorized copying of software. Most retail programs are licensed for use at just one computer site or for use by only one user at any time. By buying the software, you become a licensed user rather than an owner. You are allowed to make copies of the program for backup purposes, but it is against the law to give copies to friends and colleagues. Another type of software piracy is software counterfeiting which occurs when fake copies of software are produced in such a way that they appear to be authentic.

2. Unauthorized access or Hacking

Hacking or unauthorized access is breaking into computer systems, it entails approaching, trespassing within, communicating with, storing data in, retrieving data from, or otherwise intercepting and changing computer resources without consent. These break-ins may cause damage or disruption to computer systems or networks.

3. Plagiarism check)

Plagiarism is the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own. Plagiarism was around long before the Internet but the advent of the internet has increased cases of plagiarism and made it difficult to detect.’

4. Spamming

Spamming is flooding the Internet with many copies of the same message, in an attempt to force the message on people who would not otherwise choose to receive it. It is normally done through unsolicited bulk emails. Most spam is commercial advertising, often for dubious products, get-rich-quick schemes, or quasi-legal services.

Every time a “spammer” sends out email spam, the entire Internet community has to bear the cost, in particular the recipients and the ISPs at the receiving end. It wastes a lot of recipients’ time and disk space.

Spam also ties up bandwidth and resources on computers and routers all over the Internet. Every unwanted email message adds to the total cost of operating the networks of computers which form the Internet. Spam can disrupt a network by crashing mail servers and filling up hard drives. Spam also constitutes an invasion of Internet users’ online privacy.

5. Phishing

Phishing is the act of sending an e-mail to a user falsely claiming to be an established legitimate enterprise in an attempt to trick the user into surrendering private information that will be used for identity theft. The e-mail directs the user to visit a Web site where they are asked to update personal information, such as passwords and credit card, social security, and bank account numbers, that the legitimate organization already has. The Web site, however, is bogus and set up only to steal the user information.

Reasons for unethical behavior in ICT

  • Pressure can drive people to do things they wouldn’t normally do. For example pressure to meet unrealistic deadlines and expectations, from co-workers, bosses, or customers, can lead some people to engage in unethical activities or at least look the other way.
  • Some people make unethical choices because they are ignorant of what really is the right thing to do. Often, ethical problems are complicated, and the proper choice may not be obvious.
  • Some people behave unethically because of self-interest, need for personal gain, ambition or downright greed.
  • Misguided loyalty is another reason for unethical conduct on the job. People sometimes lie because they think in doing so they are being loyal to the organization or to their bosses. For example, managers at automobile companies who hide or falsify information about defects that later cause accidents and kill people.
  • There are those people who never learned or do not care about ethical values. Since they have no personal ethical values, they do not have any basis for understanding or applying ethical standards in their work. These people do not think about right and wrong. They only think, “What’s in it for me?” and “Can I get away with it?”
  • Competition for scarce resources, power or position can also cause individuals to engage in unethical behaviors.

Measures for controlling unethical behavior in ICT

There are a number of ways which managers can adopt to reduce unethical behavior in their organizations. These include:

  • Hiring of individuals with high ethical standards;
  • Establishing code of ethics and decision rules;
  • Defining job goals and performance appraisal mechanism;
  • Providing ethical training;
  • Conducting social audits and providing support to individuals facing ethical dilemmas.

Sources of ICT legislation

Legislation is the laws governing everybody in a country while ICT legislation refers to the laws governing the ICT sector. In Kenya, the ICT sector is still emerging and there are no specific laws for the sector. However, there are several affecting the ICT sector in Kenya. These are:

  • The following laws govern/affect the sector:
  • Kenya Communications Act 1998
  • Postal Corporation Kenya Act 1998
  • Kenya Broadcasting Corporation Act
  • The Telegraph Press Message Act 1983
  • The Science & Technology Act
  • State Corporations Act
  • The Education Act

Draft legislation that is expected to be passed soon and which are likely to affect the ICT sector includes:

  • Broadcasting Bill
  • Freedom of Information
  • Electronic Transaction bill
  • Mobile Telephone Reprogramming

Other laws that are used to govern the sector include the ‘Common law’ and the ‘Statute law’ of the United Kingdom

 ICT policy

A policy can be defined as a plan of action to guide decisions and actions. The term may apply to government, organizations and individuals. Policies in short can be understood as mechanisms arranged to reach explicit goals.

An ICT policy can therefore be defined as the rules and regulations set by the organization that determines the type of internal and external ICT resources employees can access, the kinds of programs they may install on their own computers as well as their authority for accessing network resources.

Benefits of policies

  1. Help save time
  2. Help prevent managerial mistakes
  3. Improve consistency of decision making
  4. Focus decisions towards business goals

Data Protection (Information Privacy)

Data Protection is achieved through the Data Protection Act. The Data Protection Act was developed to give protection and lay down the rules about how personal data can be used. It was created to protect individuals from misuse of this data. It governs the collection and processing of data by organizations and the individual rights to access the data if they wish.

Principles of Data Protection Act

  • Data must be kept secure;
  • Data stored must be relevant;
  • Data stored must be kept no longer than necessary;
  • Data stored must be kept accurate and up-to-date;
  • Data must be obtained and processed lawfully;
  • Data must be processed within the data subject rights;
  • Data must be obtained and specified for lawful purposes;
  • Data must not be transferred to countries without adequate data protection laws.


Copyright is achieved through the Copyright, Design and Patents Act of 1988. This Act was introduced to protect people who have created original pieces of work like Books, Music, Films, Games and Applications, etc.

Two main purposes of the Act:

  • To ensure people are rewarded for their endeavours.
  • To give protection to the copyright holder if someone tries to steal their work.

The Act protects a wide range of work both written and computer based and Includes:

  • Copying Software;
  • Copying or Downloading music;
  • Copying images or photographs from the Web;
  • Copying text from web pages

The Computer Misuse Act

The Computer Misuse Act (1990) was introduced to secure computer material against unauthorised access or modification.  Before this act was enacted, it was not possible to prosecute a ‘hacker’. Three categories of criminal offences were established to cover the following conduct:

  • Unauthorised access to computer material (viewing data which you are not authorized to see).
  • Unauthorised access with intent to commit or facilitate commission of further offences (hacking).
  • Unauthorised modification of computer material.
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