University of Calgary, canada
[email protected] This paper discusses ethical issues with respect to GIS software manufacturers, professional organisations, governments, academia, consultants and the public
I had published a short article few years ago on the topic of GIS and Ethics (1). I would like to revisit this topic with an explicit use of Peter Fisher’s (2) suggestion that issues surrounding GIS and Ethics generally revolve around a number of key actors. Here, I will take the liberty of adding one more to his categories of key actors.
In recent years professional organizations have advocated and supported the need for GIS certification. Perhaps the most successful of these endeavours has been championed by the Urban and Regional Information System Association (URISA)(8) whose initiative has led to the founding of the GIS Certification Institute (GISCI). GISCI has developed a Certification Program for Professionals that may be found at their website(9-10). The institute first accepted applications for certification in January 2004.
GISCI has adopted the URISA code of ethics (11) promulgated in 2003. The URISA code is sophisticated and discusses the various philosophical approaches to ethics and provides a list of academic references for the neophyte as well. The GISCI code must be agreed to by all professionals wanting to receive GISCI professional certification(12). It is easy, however, to say that you agree to the code while it is quite a different story to have to pass an exam that tests your knowledge of the code before you become accredited. The code is also written in such general terms that it would be simple for one person to interpret it one way and for another to arrive at a completely different view of its requirements. This is often recognised when authors in their opening paragraphs state: “This code is not expected to provide guidelines for all situations. Ambiguities will occur, and personal judgement will be required.”
The Association of Computing Machinery in the US also has a code of ethics. It publishes a booklet that offers a simplified version of this code in non-technical language that beginners, students and clients would understand. This is a good idea that the GIS industry would do well to emulate. (13)