Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Does Canberra already face a shortage of experienced government ICT executives?

The Mandarin reports that six significant federal agencies are currently seeking permanent Chief Information Officers, while both the ACT government and the Federal government's Digital Transition Office recently resorted to overseas hires to fill senior leadership roles requiring strong digital backgrounds.

Does this signify a shortage of senior digital and ICT talent in Australia (or at least of talent willing to work for government)?

Or is it merely a timing issue, representing a temporary hiccup in the supply of appropriately skilled executives?

While I'm sure the current shortage will be managed, it is worth considering in the light of Australia's declining number of ICT graduates, which represents a future challenge for both government and the private sector in attracting the best talent for future ICT and digital roles.

While increasingly Australia is off-shoring ICT work, or is able to buy in foreign digital services and talent, this disguises a deeper concern - that there may not be sufficient ICT and digitally trained and experienced locals in the future able to step into senior strategic roles.

If many entry and mid-level programming and digital positions are outsourced to overseas specialists, Australia won't be providing enough locals with appropriate career paths towards senior roles to support the talent development we need as a nation.

Now this isn't a new issue, the ICT industry has been shouting about it from the rooftops for at least the last three years.

However the ICT industry doesn't have the lobbying power in Canberra of other groups, from doctors to miners, and with most of Australia's senior politicians being digital immigrants at best, there's limited recognition of the scale of the issue or what positive steps can be taken to address it.

As society grows increasingly digital, the lack of strategic talent available for business and government is likely to become a significant drag on our economy and governance capability, placing us at a relative disadvantage against countries with a good talent pipeline and positive digital policies.

So while agencies are searching for those senior ICT executives they need today, they should consider how they can future-proof their talent pipelines into the future.

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