Software Engineering: Code of Ethics Survey

Incus Data and TUT (Tshwane University of Technology) are conducting an online survey about ethics in the software engineering industry in South Africa.

This survey focuses on a critical, but neglected, aspect of our industry.

Reason for the survey

In today's world, almost everything we do relies on software. Software developers handle sensitive medical, financial, and personal data daily. They are responsible for the correct operation of critical systems.

A professional code of ethics sets out the standard of care that the public can reasonably expect from a person in that profession. There is an established code of ethics for the financial, legal, medical, and engineering professions.

But there is no widely adopted code of ethics for the software engineering industry. Ethics in IT is not a required course for students who want to enter the industry.

Many people in software engineering have had little exposure to industry-specific ethics. This is true of junior and senior professionals. They know about their employer's corporate code of ethics. But their public responsibility as IT professionals is not clearly recognized or acknowledged.

It's not just about hacking

Don't make the mistake of thinking that software ethics is about hacking or ransomware.

Our professional ethics — our code of conduct — affects the quality of our work. It affects the way we interact with our team, either as a manager or a team member. And as a result, it has a direct impact on the quality and stability of our systems.

You NEED your developers and software engineers to care about this.

We need your help

We need your help to reach as many developers as possible. We would like you to ask all the relevant people in your team or organization to complete the survey.

The survey is voluntary and completely anonymous. It will take about 15 minutes to complete. There is no compensation for responding, and there is no known risk.

As a token of our appreciation for your help, we will provide you with a report on the results of the survey. This information can help you identify the need for training or other action.

About the survey

The purpose of the survey is to determine the level of awareness of, and the extent of adherence to, a code of ethics specific to software engineering within the SA industry.

The survey is based on the IEEE CS/ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Practice. In its preamble, the Code states the following:

“Software engineers are those who contribute by direct participation or by teaching, to the analysis, specification, design, development, certification, maintenance and testing of software systems. Because of their roles in developing software systems, software engineers have significant opportunities to do good or cause harm, to enable others to do good or cause harm, or to influence others to do good or cause harm. To ensure, as much as possible, that their efforts will be used for good, software engineers must commit themselves to making software engineering a beneficial and respected profession.”

The questions in the survey will help us to measure the following:

  • Awareness of and exposure to an industry code of ethics.
  • Belief in the importance and relevance of an industry code of ethics.
  • Experience and opinion relating to ethical standards and behaviour in the workplace.
  • Experience and opinion relating to software quality standards in software.

We do not ask for any information that can identify the participant. Answers will be aggregated and used for research and analysis purposes only.

Survey oversight

This survey is conducted under the auspices of the TUT Research Ethics Committee (reference number: REC2019/10/004).

Tshwane University of Technology is the largest residential tertiary institution in South Africa. Incus Data has been training software developers for more than 20 years.

Please contact Jacqui on cell: 083-252-7483 or email her to discuss how you can participate.