In the last 15 years, there has been a growing interest in the subject of professional and business ethics. Organisations are becoming increasingly aware of the effects of (un)ethical practices on stakeholders (Adams et al.. 1991). Public awareness of unethical business behaviour has sharpened, as the climate of deregulation and competition has shifted, impacting on the boundaries of accepted practice, with the media and investigative reporting surfacing many incidents. Public awareness has been facilitated by multimedia that rests on the advancements in information technologies (IT).

Furthermore, economies that are shifting from material growth towards added value in all its varied forms through information, ideas and intelligence, the 'three I's economy', in healthcare, the arts and environment, leisure, travel, sport and service sectors, are increasingly becoming information intensive and at the same time IS/IT driven (Handy, 1995). Consequently these economies are increasingly dependent on the knowledge and services of IS/IT specialists. Although these IS/IT specialists are increasingly referred to in the literature as professionals, they operate as an occupation and at best can be seen as para-specialists, without professional certification and codes of conduct.

This chapter 1 examines what constitutes profession, through an analysis of the pros and cons of a profession. The chapter also explores the emerging need for IS/IT 'professionals' and/or para-professionals to adopt codes of conduct. It is argued that sustained research output in this area is important in order to establish IS/IT ethics on an equal footing with other topics in applied ethics and the establishment of an ethical code of conduct for IS/IT 'professionals'.