Perspectives on ICT Professionalism in 2013

Stephen Ibaraki, Founder and Chair, IP3 Global Industry Council

Building on the discussion of professionalism in Kelly Gotlieb and Allan Borodin’s seminal book, Social Issues in Computing, I’m often asked what ICT professionalism means to me, and below I provide three perspectives for 2013.

First, since the 1980’s I have interviewed over 1000 global thought leaders with many appearing with IT Manager Connection (the world’s largest ICT management blog). In my interviews, I ask them this question on professionalism:

Do you feel computing should be a recognized profession on par with accounting, medicine and law with demonstrated professional development, adherence to a published code of ethics and a discipline process for those who breach it, personal responsibility, public accountability, quality assurance and recognized credentials?”

Prior to 2005, fewer than 5% of the interviewees would provide any comment on professionalism. In 2013, over 90% provide their experiences, and the vast majority are supportive of all facets of Professionalism –a substantial shift.

Finally, in my speech at the ITU World Summit for the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva in May, I provided a map of a profession adapted from sources such as the IEEE-CS, CIPS, IFIP and others and explained the graphic in this way:

The Concept of IT as Profession or Professionalism is gaining ground and a recognition that it must apply to all sectors of the IT industry.

Looking to the LEFT:

  • Certification involves: initial education, skills development, leading to certification;
  • Professional Status or Professionalism, or the Concept of IT as a Profession adds to this: adherence to a code of ethics, continuing demonstrated professional development, and alignment with common standards or body of knowledge (BOK), and standards of practice (SOP).

Looking to the RIGHT:

  • A Professional Society provides for: a sense of common identity or belonging;
  • Accreditation of substantive educational programs;
  • Assessment of skills development;
  • Provisions for “professional” certification;
  • Support for a code of ethics and a discipline process for those who breach it to ensure trust in the IT worker;
  • An assessment of continuing professional development;
  • And support for a Body of Knowledge (BOK) and Standards of Practice (SOP).”

The ITU released reports from the sessions.

The debated issues in ITU Professionalism were:

  • Potential of Skills and Competences Frameworks in use to produce fragmentation and non-alignment between industry and academia;
  • Labour force diversity issues including shortages because of the ageing society, lack of STEM graduates and lack of appropriate workplace diversity (example: unequal representation of women ICT professionals);
  • Developing versus developed countries treatments need to be different;
  • Who should drive the professionalism of its workforce?
  • How to develop the maturity of the Society’s profession?

Main Outcomes of the ITU Session:

  • IFIP IP3 is in a position to assist with the resolution of issues about driving professionalism in the ICT workforce;
  • IFIP IP3 mapping and harmonization addresses the fragmentation and non-alignment between industry and academia with regards to Skills and Competences Frameworks;
  • IFIP IP3 is taking a proactive approach to solving labour force diversity issues including shortages because of the ageing society, lack of STEM graduates and lack of appropriate workplace diversity (example: unequal representation of women ICT professionals);
  • IFIP IP3 localized mentorship programs addresses the need for developing versus developed countries and recognises that approaches need to be different;
  • IFIP IP3 will support local entities in driving the professionalism of its workforce;
  • IFIP IP3’s collaborative model and best practices provide a ready toolbox to develop the maturity of the Society’s profession.

Quotes released from the ITU sessions included:

  • “The common denominator for sustained growth in economic development, GDP, innovation, sustainability and security is a professional workforce supported by internationally accredited industry relevant education, demonstrated skills development, recognized ethical conduct and adherence to proven best practices and standards. This involves the collaboration of business, industry, governments, academia, and professional societies.” – Stephen Ibaraki, ICT Fellow, Global Fellow, Distinguished Fellow
  •  “In our country, there’s a desire to create a professional ICT body and we want to find ways to do this. This workshop has shown me that IFIP IP3 is an organisation that can help us to achieve this.” – Samson Mwela, A/Assistant Director Telecommunications, Tanzania
  • “Industry in Switzerland needs 6000 graduates in ICT, 3500 are graduated, this creates a shortage each year of 2500.  IFIP IP3 produces an attractive career path, progression, recognition and mobility addressing skills shortages and shortages in STEM.” – Professor Raymond Morel, Geneva.

There were emerging trends relevant to the Action Lines in the context of the WSIS +10 Process. By 2017, 70% of leading-edge firms will be developing Versatilists or those with multiple skills/with a focus on Professionalism and Business. Business Analysts are already in high demand. There are 35M computing workers growing 30% yearly for the next five years. There is an added 50% in IT that is not accounted for. However skills shortages and shortages in STEM will blunt business, industry, governments, education, society, sustainability, security, economic development, and GDP growth without a focus on professionalizing the computing worker.

Moreover, ICT is heavily integrated into business, industry, governments, education, society, sustainability, security, economic development and accounts for 50% of GDP growth, producing  a five times total factor productivity gain. Underlying ICT is a professional and skilled workforce. The IFIP IP3 global professionalism program adds significant value to producing the required outcomes to support ICT:

  • Global standards; Quality assurance; Protection of the public; (Action line C5)
  • Professionalism, Trust, Code of Ethics; AL C10
  • Stronger Voice for the IT practitioner, a Sense of Common Identity; AL C5
  • The feeling of being an Engineer or Executive over a Geek/Pirate; AL C4
  • Business Solutions over Technical Features; AL C5
  • A Career path, progression, recognition, and mobility over an isolated job; AL C4
  • And growing GDP and innovation over skill shortages and shortages in Science Technology Engineering, Math or STEM; AL C4

These three perspectives from interviews and ITU WSIS provide an overview of Professionalism in 2013.

Stephen Ibaraki is the founding chairman of the United-Nations-founded IFIP-IP3 Global Industry Council, as well as iGEN Knowledge Solutions, Global Board GITCA, and first board chairman, The Vine Group. He serves as vice-Chair of  the World CIO Forum, founding board director FEAPO, and is a past president of the Canadian Information Processing Society(CIPS), which elected him a Founding Fellow in 2005.  Ibaraki is chair of the ACM Practitioners Board Professionalism and Certification  and Professional Development Committees, and is the recipient of many ICT awards,  including a IT Leadership Lifetime Achievement Award, an Advanced Technology Lifetime Achievement Award,  Professionalism Career Achievement Awards, an IT Hero Award, the Gary Hadford Award, and others.  Ibaraki has been the recipient of a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Award each year since 2006. Ibaraki serves as an advisor on ICT matters for a variety of global organizations, companies, and governments.

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