Joseph M. Kizza on the importance of teaching ethical issues to computer science studentsFollowing new technological developments is like climbing a mountain shrouded in early morning mist, always expecting to crest at every forward step but never cresting; yet we don’t give up. It gets worse when we are inebriated by technology. We have gotten so involved in new and never-ending technological developments that we are almost at a point of enslavement. Yet we keep on moving, always expecting a more enjoyable technological experience as dire warnings of overuse fly past us. The overwhelming growth of technology and its ability to give us unlimited powers, making us able to do things unthinkable just a few years past, is equally creating as much excitement as it creates security scares and bewilderment. Tremendous technological advances have been registered across the board from telecommunication to computing with jaw-dropping developments. Along the way, these developments are creating an unprecedented convergence of communications and computing platform technologies that are reaching into all remote corners of the world, bringing the poor, the forgotten and less affluent on par with the “chosen“ few in the rest of the developed world. These new technological developments are continuously creating new communities and ecosystems and annihilating others with amazing speed. These newly created communities and ecosystems are themselves evolving and in flux, which makes securing them difficult.
To address those challenges and build ethical and secure societies and communities, we need strong and adoptable ethical frameworks and intelligent, adoptable security standards for these communities. We can do this by drawing up curricula and developing learning materials based on those frameworks and standards. Ethical and Social Issues in the Information Age does just that. Without losing my focus and flavor of the previous editions, I have provided a strong, agile ethical framework and applied it in different environments that are common in the current evolving cyber communities. I have also discussed and provided a variety of secure systems and standards, and applied these to different cyber infrastructures and situations.
In the text, I explore the notion that a time is coming, if not already here, when we, as individuals and as nations, will become totally dependent on computing technology. Evidence of this is embodied in the rapid convergence of telecommunication, broadcasting, computing and mobile devices, the miniaturization of these devices, the ever growing ubiquity of computing, the speed of computation, and ease of use. These technology characteristics attract millions of new users every day, sometimes even those unwilling. Other appealing features of technology explored are its ever growing pervasiveness and applications for both good and bad. Whether big or small, devices based on this changing technology have become centerpieces of our social and economic activities, the main access point for all information, thus empowering their owners. Computing technology has also become the engine that drives the nations' strategic and security infrastructures that control power grids, gas and oil storage facilities, transportation and all forms of national communication, including emergency services. These developments, as we all know and I discuss further, have elevated the cyberspace ecosystem as the most crucial economic and security environment of nations, requiring an ethical and secure computing environment.
I conclude the discussion in the text by a warning that as we look for ethical and secure computing strategies, the technological race is picking up speed with new technologies that make our efforts and existing protocols on which these strategies are based obsolete in shorter and shorter periods. All these illustrate the speed at which the computing environment is changing, and demonstrate a need for continuous review of our defensive strategies; they also point to a need for a strong ethical and secure framework in our computer, information and engineering science education in particular, and in all our communities at large. This has been, and will continue to be the focus of my scholarship, and it is and remains the case in this edition.