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Course Title: 
Computing and Society
Educational Level: 
Semester offered: 
I & II
Associated Programme: 
B.Sc. CS; B.Sc. IT
Core Course: 
Course Aims: 

This course aims to engender an understanding of the basic cultural, social, legal, and ethical issues inherent in the discipline of computing. It describes where the discipline has been, where it is, and where it is heading, in the global as well as the regional context. It also aims to create an awareness of the role of the individual in this process, as well as an appreciation of the philosophical questions, technical problems, and aesthetic values that play an important part in the development of the discipline. This course on Computing and society examines the relatively short history of computing and establishes context and trends. It looks at the emergence of different programming languages and paradigms and the significant impact they have had. Computing has a social context that the course examines. Issues of professional ethics and risks of computing products are also examined.

  • History of Computing
    • History of computer hardware, software, networking. Regional computing history.
    • Pioneers of computing. Contributions of the region and of other developing countries.
  • An Overview of Computing
    • How hardware, software, and networks work at a conceptual level; use and high-level construction of computing artifacts, e.g. simple Web pages, animations, robotics programs.
    • Sub-disciplines within Computing: Computer Science, IT, IS, etc.
    • The global computing industry and its impact on industry and society.
    • The use of computing in enterprise, entrepreneurship, various disciplines and careers.
  • Social Context of Computing
    • Social implications of computing and networked communication in general and on youth, e.g., cultural, self-image, possible effects of video games
    • Understanding the social and cultural context of design
    • Understanding the potential of computing to transform society positively, globally or regionally, or to exacerbate inequalities or mask underdevelopment.
    • Analysis of the government and business policies of developing and developed countries with successful computing industries.
    • Accessibility issues in computing professions (e.g. class, culture, ethnicity, gender, disabled)
    • Public policy issues (e.g. cybercrime, privacy, electronic voting)
    • Growth and control of and access to the Internet
    • Environmental Issues and Computing, e.g. e-waste, green computing
  • Professional Ethics in Computing
    • Making and evaluating ethical choices and arguments, identifying assumptions and values
    • The nature of professionalism (including care, attention and discipline, fiduciary responsibility, and mentoring)
    • Keeping up-to-date as a professional (in terms of knowledge, tools, skills, legal and professional framework as well as the ability to self-assess and computer fluency)
    • Various forms of professional credentialing and the advantages and disadvantages
    • The role of the professional in public policy
    • Maintaining awareness of the consequences of decisions
    • Introduction to ethics, ethical dissent, and whistle-blowing
    • Codes of ethics, conduct, and practice (IEEE, ACM, SE, etc.)
    • Harassment and discrimination, “Acceptable use” policies for computing in the workplace
    • Healthy computing environment (ergonomics)
  • Risks of Computing Products
    • Historical examples of software risks (such as the Therac-25 case)
    • Implications of software complexity on risk. The limits of computing.
Course Assessment: 
  • 2-hour written final     50%
  • Coursework                 50%
    • 3 written assignments     30% (10% each)
    • 2 tutorial presentations     20% (10% each)

Students will be required to pass both the coursework and the final examination to pass the course.

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