IFIP IP3 Wants ICT Practitioners Working with Safety Critical Systems to be Certified

The global professional body for the technology sector has called for minimum professional standards for ICT practitioners working on computer systems where human life might be at risk.

The call – from IP3 (International Professional Practice Partnership), the professionalism arm of IFIP (International Federation for Information Processing) – follows reports that Boeing has developed a software patch to address the glitch in the 737 MAX 8 planes that caused two major airline crashes in the past 12 months and killed nearly 350 people.

IP3 Chair, Moira de Roche wants defined standards in terms of qualifications and experience for ICT practitioners involved in designing, testing and maintaining safety critical software systems, such as those used in transport, health and other sectors where system failure can cause death.

“Society used to believe that ICT practitioners did not have to be professionals because what they do is not life threatening,” said Ms de Roche. “However, these crashes involving the Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes prove that software errors can threaten hundreds of lives at a time.”

IP3 accredits national member societies to certify ICT practitioners who meet minimum standards for technical knowledge and skills, which are continually updated through continuing professional development, and who are committed to a Code of Ethics and accountable for developing and maintaining trustworthy ICT systems.

Reports this week claim that Boeing has completed, and is now testing, a software patch to prevent the controversial Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) from being triggered multiple times, which is what is believed to have caused the recent 737 MAX 8 crashes.

According to a recent Boeing statement, “We’ve been working diligently and in close cooperation with the FAA on the software update. We are taking a comprehensive and careful approach to design, develop and test the software that will ultimately lead to certification.”

Ms de Roche said tighter standards are needed to ensure that the public is protected when flying.

“While it’s heartening to hear that Boeing has provided a patch to fix the issues in the MCAS software which have been blamed for the recent crashes, we need to ensure this kind of situation never happens again. We also need to question whether other unexplained aviation disasters over the past few years were also caused by software problems,” she said.

“We believe that anyone working to design, build or test software systems that operate in high risk environments such as transport, health, mining and more, should be required to demonstrate defined levels of knowledge, skills and ethical conduct so the public can feel confident that these systems are trustworthy.”