Assessing the Flow of Tech Talent into Government & Civil Society

Assessing the Flow of Tech Talent into Government & Civil Society: An evaluation of the technology talent landscape shows a severe paucity of individuals with technical skills in computer science, data science, and the Internet or other information technology expertise in civil society and government. The report investigates broadly the health of the talent pipeline that connects individuals studying or working in information technology-related disciplines to careers in public sector and civil society institutions. Barriers to recruitment and retention of individuals with the requisite skills include compensation, a perceived inability to pursue groundbreaking work, and cultural aversion to innovation.

This report was written by Freedman Consulting, LLC, and was commissioned by the Ford Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Excerpt from the executive summary:

Technology now mediates a vast set of relationships, but the number of individuals who can understand, build, and work with these evolving technology tools and platforms remains relatively small… through the effective use of technology is among the greatest contemporary opportunities for the public sector.

Civil society faces a similar set of challenges and opportunities. Technology has emerged as a transformative tool for how non-governmental organizations are able to build movements, raise money, disseminate information, provide services, and generate conversation.

In addition, both government and civil society will play a crucial role in making decisions about how technology should be used across all sectors of contemporary society. This includes identifying opportunities to utilize technology as a solution, but it also involves a sophisticated and challenging set of conversations about limitations on the use of technology, whether by private or public institutions…

Recent examples illustrate in vivid detail both the complexity of these issues and their growing relevance. The launch of President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy initiative health care reform has been stymied by significant malfunctioning of HealthCare.Gov, the online portal intended to provide health insurance to millions of Americans… In particular, because HealthCare.Gov was built largely by private contractors, questions have emerged about whether government agencies employ enough individuals with the skills to knowledgeably manage outside vendors for extensive technology projects…

…deep questions remain about the ability for many areas of government and civil society to identify, cultivate, and retain individuals with the necessary skills for success in a world increasingly driven by information technology.

I like the report, upon first glance – but I missed anything about recommendations about how there must be a change in how FUNDERS think. Without a change in how funders think about paying for overhead at nonprofits and community initiatives and about how they pressure nonprofits to keep administrative costs low, the funding needed for the changes recommended in this report isn’t going to happen – and therefore the changes aren’t going to happen.

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