print header
News & Events
 SHARE   |  
April 19, 2011

Research Team Studies Ethical Decision Making in IT

Bond UniversityWhen making ethical decisions relating to information systems issues, Australian business and IS university students tend to think more than American students about how their decisions will affect society and the environment, a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire research team believes.

"We are still in the process of analyzing all the data, but it appears that Australians tend to think much more about how their decisions affect their community and society as a whole, and Americans tend to think much more about how their decisions will affect themselves," said John Luoma, a senior information systems and accounting major from Park Falls who is part of the research team.

The Australian students cared greatly about being green, and they cared about their communities, organizations and society, said Kristin Konitzer, who is part of the research team.

"The Australians weren't all about themselves and their own personal agenda, but they were concerned about what is best for a group as a whole and the basics of right and wrong," said Konitzer, a senior health care administration major and an IS minor from Arpin.

Luoma, Konitzer and Dr. Bruce Lo, an IS professor at UW-Eau Claire, spent three weeks in Australia in January surveying about 200 Australian business and IS students at Bond University, Southern Cross University and the University of Wollongong.

They also conducted face-to-face interviews with 30 other Australian students and met with staff at Gnibi College of Indigenous People to discuss how Australian indigenous people make ethical decisions, Lo said, noting that the students were actively involved in all aspects of the "Regional and Societal Influence in Ethical IT Decision making: a comparison of US and Australia" research project.

In the United States, the researchers gathered data from about 300 UW-Eau Claire students, Lo said.

"Given the pervasiveness of computers and Internet in everyday life and the large number of technology misuses and abuses, IT ethics has attracted a great deal of attention among IT professionals and the general public," Lo said. "This research project is timely, and it crosses the boundaries of several disciplines: technology, business, social sciences, ethics and philosophy. Technology has a global influence, but in the interface between technology with human society, regional and cultural factors cannot be ignored."

The chance to explore another culture made the research project especially appealing, Luoma said, noting he's always been fascinated by cultural differences.

"Even though the U.S. and Australia both are Western countries, there are many differences between our cultures," Luoma said. "This experience changed my outlook on the world. Both the government and the people of Australia do things differently from how things are done here. That doesn't mean that either of us is right; it just means there are several answers to any given problem."

Interacting with the Australian students and faculty was the highlight of his time in Australia, Luoma said.

"Discussing how they view the world and make decisions was interesting," Luoma said. "Learning the language differences also was interesting. The first time I heard a car trunk called a 'boot' I knew there were a lot of differences between American and Australian English."

Konitzer said the project has allowed her to fulfill two longstanding goals—being part of a collaborative research team and spending time in Australia.

"I've always wanted to study abroad and do research but I didn't want it to set me behind academically or to kill my finances," Konitzer said. "This project fit perfectly, especially since the travel was during Winterim. It was exciting every day. Meeting new people who were all so different was such a great experience. Every part of the experience was truly amazing."

The project also has made her think differently about her future goals, Konitzer said.

"I'm hoping to go back to Australia," Konitzer said. "I made connections in Australia that have opened more doors of opportunity for my future. This experience taught me to think about different perspectives of business. This is one of the best opportunities I've ever been given."

Lo and the students meet weekly to continue their analysis and to prepare papers and presentations to share their findings. Luoma and Konitzer will present their research in May at the inaugural Provost's Honors Symposium for Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity.

The research team's work in Australia was part of the Center for International Education's International Fellows Program, which is funded through the university's Blugold Commitment initiative.

The IFP, which capitalizes on the strength and success of high-impact academic experiences offered at UW-Eau Claire, is dedicated to supporting international student-faculty collaborative research, creative activity and research service-learning.

The Blugold Commitment, approved in early 2010 by UW-Eau Claire students and the UW System Board of Regents, is a differential tuition increase of $1,200, phased in over four years, to preserve and enhance the distinctive UW-Eau Claire educational experience. Providing high-impact learning experiences—like the research team's recent Australian project—for all UW-Eau Claire students is one of the goals of the Blugold Commitment.

The research project also received funding from the UW-Eau Claire College of Business and the department of information systems.

For details about the project, contact Dr. Bruce Lo, professor of information systems, at 715-836-3387 or lobw@uwec.edu.

Source: UW-Eau Claire News Bureau

Excellence. Our Measure. Our Motto. Our Goal.