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Government IT: Does the ‘skills gap’ make for an awkward hug between the public sector and the cloud?

Posted on 28 Feb, 2013 by in Government | Leave a comment

Huddle Q&A with Nishant Shah, government technology analyst at Ovum: Part II

Yesterday, Nishant Shah shared his views on trends in US government technology for the year ahead and what the future of the mobile workforce looks like in this space. Today, he discusses the “skills gap” with the Huddle team:

There has been a lot of talk recently about a “skills gap”, hampering the uptake of cloud services; do you think this is something to be concerned about in US government?

There has been a “skills gap”, but there is always a “skills gap” with emerging technologies, whether in the private or public sectors. Clearly, the private sector has superior ability to quickly upskill workers and can pay to hire the best, whereas incentives in the public sector are usually not as attractive. That being said, austerity is forcing US public sector agencies to get better at embracing leadership that sets “big, hairy, audacious goals” and makes the idea of working in their departments sexier and an excellent training ground for new talent.

Concurrently, there’s a demographic change occurring in the government workforce. By 2015, about half the federal workforce will be eligible to retire. Agencies across the US government are just beginning to respond to this shift. One of the dynamics at play is the different set of expectations and approach to their careers the new generation of workers come with. Indeed, these workers view privacy and security in very different ways than the old guard.

This is good news for the uptake of cloud-based services, as they are understood at a more intrinsic level, culturally, by the new generation of workers who will bypass the days of intense vendor lock-in and antiquated IT procurement. Even amongst current IT decision makers, thinking around security and standards has changed tremendously in just a few years, resulting in powerful stimulators like FedRAMP (“authorize once, use many”).

So is the “skills gap” a concern for uptake of cloud in government? Yes, albeit not as much as in the big data analytics space, for example. In the short run, there will continue to be a greater need for IT professionals that understand the cloud than there is supply. Therefore, strong private sector partners will continue to play an important role. However, this “skills gap” is an eminently addressable one that speaks as much to organizational culture, the view on measured risk-taking, and “shopping skills” as to a surfeit in technical ability.

Nishant Shah, government technology analyst at Ovum

Nishant Shah is an Ovum analyst focusing on smart cities, cloud computing, analytics, open data, gamification, and connection technologies.

Before joining Ovum, Nishant’s work included facilitating public-private partnerships for Ambassador Richard Holbrooke’s Global Business Coalition; providing management services to technology investees of Acumen Fund Pakistan; consulting for NYC government on solar; and piloting adult education/social services projects while on an international development fellowship in India. He has also served on the founding teams of two technology startups.

Nishant completed his graduate studies at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and received his BA from Boston University.

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