Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Ethical Values of IT Professionals in Chinese Cultural Societies

Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Ethical Values of IT Professionals in Chinese Cultural Societies

Article excerpt


Due to the fact that MIS professionals control the information systems (IS) and core capability data of a company as well as its critical downstream, upstream, and customer data, their role in modern organizations has become increasingly important. For this reason, a large number of companies require CMMI and BS7799 certification to prevent destruction of company IS, data, and customer information. The concept of information sharing runs counter to that of complete confidentiality and partial accessibility. For this reason, the principle of information ethics always contravenes the important value of free accessible information (Weiss, 1990; Martin, 2001; Davison et al., 2006).

Ethics refers to the values, duty, responsibility, and obligation of people to manifest good conduct, and to have the capacity to direct professional conduct in a special context. However, these abstract values and habits vary enormously, the result of the moral experience of culture, politics, and religion. For this reason, professionals should become self-conscious, ethical values being the necessary and critical element and prerequisite in that process (Shapiro, 1994; Mele et al., 2006). In fact, the social responsibility of the e-era in the information society enterprise must protect an individual from being violated by IT in each system and culture. The ethical issue derived from IT should be conducted relative to policy or strategy (Martin, 2001).

The practices derived from ethical values have been in existence for many years in Western society, and have been internalized in employees' beliefs, allowing those values to become the norm of organizations. IS is a product embedded in Anglo-American culture and the ethical issue is part of the life of the MIS professional and user. In view of this, the way in which such professionals perceive ethical values can influence their attitudes and conduct and have positive consequences. Due to the fact that human emotion leads to unethical conduct, and due also to the fact that the ethical framework is relative to the particular social context in which it is set, the problem of ethics is derived from specific temporal and cultural contexts (Rhodes, 1986). Culture clearly influences the issue of ethics and intellectual property protection is very much rooted in the Western cultural values of liberalism and individual rights (Steidlmeier, 1993; Milberg et al., 1995; Hused, 2001; Shore et al., 2001; Mele et al., 2006; Moore & Chang, 2006; Haines & Leonard, 2007).

In an individualist culture, equity is preferred over equality, while in a collectivist culture, equity is preferred in dealing with out-groups only, and equality is preferred in dealing with the in-group (Triandis, 1994a, 1994b). Glass and Wood (1996) found that equity theory was helpful in explaining decisions made by individuals in the U.S. to share illegal copies of software. Software piracy is viewed as an exchange involving an evaluation of the outcomes compared with the inputs of the exchange. In a collectivist culture, there is a greater emphasis on sharing within the in-group (Hofstede, 1997; Swinyard et al., 1990) and thus one would expect that software would also be the subject of such sharing, without the exchange calculus of a more individualistic society.

Moreover, Vitell et al. (1993) argued that people from high-uncertaintyavoidance cultures are less likely to perceive the moral issue involved in a given business practice. Rules are usually quite rigid and thus not observed in practice. It is less likely that they will recognize an issue as ethical in the absence of formal rules and laws (Vitell et al., 1993). Donaldson (1996) predicts that Confucian countries will experience higher levels of software piracy because of the ethical norm that stresses that individuals should share what they create with society. At the same time, the Western focus contrasts sharply with the Asian emphasis on social harmony and cooperation (Swinyard et al. …

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