Report for the Ford Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation: “As information technology further suffuses every aspect of our lives, government will inevitably have a role to play in ensuring that technology serves the public interest. The ability for government to improve operations and provide services to citizens more efficiently through the effective use of technology is among the greatest contemporary opportunities for the public sector…
Among the key findings of this report:
- The Current Pipeline Is Insufficient: the vast majority of interviewees indicated that there is 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. In particular, many of those interviewed noted that existing talent levels fail to meet current needs to develop, leverage, or understand technology.
- Barriers to Recruitment and Retention Are Acute: many of those interviewed said that substantial barriers thwart the effective recruitment and retention of individuals with the requisite skills in government and civil society. Among the most common barriers mentioned were those of compensation, an inability to pursue groundbreaking work, and a culture that is averse to hiring and utilizing potentially disruptive innovators
- A Major Gap between the Public-Interest and For-Profit Sectors Persists: as a related matter, interviewees discussed superior for-profit recruitment and retention models. Specifically, the for-profit sector was perceived as providing both more attractive compensation (especially to young talent) and fostering a culture of innovation, openness, and creativity that was seen as more appealing to technologists and innovators.
- A Need to Examine Models from Other Fields: interviewees noted significant space to develop new models to improve the robustness of the talent pipeline; in part, many existing models were regarded as unsustainable or incomplete. Interviewees did, however, highlight approaches from other fields that could provide relevant lessons to help guide investments in improving this pipeline.
- Significant Opportunity for Connection and Training: despite consonance among those interviewed that the pipeline was incomplete, many individuals indicated the possibility for improved and more systematic efforts to expose young technologists to public interest issues and connect them to government and civil society careers through internships, fellowships, and other training and recruitment tools.
- Culture Change Necessary: the culture of government and civil society –and its effects on recruitment and other bureaucratic processes –was seen as a vital challenge that would need to be addressed to improve the pipeline. This view manifested through comments that government and civil society organizations needed to become more open to utilizing technology and adopting a mindset of experimentation….”