Digital skills is an interesting issue. There is definitely some sort of problem yet it is difficult to define. It is a subject that certainly got the juices flowing at our latest Socitm meeting. We followed our usual format starting off with an industry view from John at Amazon Web Services. This was followed by Gren from South Tyneside and David from Sunderland University. Industry, authority and academia. A triptych of opinion.
Amazon’s approach was very much along the lines of taking the technical out of the process, making it as easy as possible for its users to interact with their service. Gren talked about the large number of activities that are going on across the region to improve digital skills across all ages, while David talked about digital behaviours rather than skills. His is an interesting view in that interest comes before skills. You learn to drive because of where you will be able to go rather than for the mental and physical stimulation. The same should be true of the digital world.
After the three presentations, a lively debate ensued.
So do we have a digital skills shortage, or do we instead have a digital behaviours shortage?
I see that there is an advert out for the first Chief Digital Officer for London. The successful candidate will convene GLA officials, the Smart London Board, local authorities and the technology sectors to encourage collaboration and adoption of common standards around data and service transformation.
I smiled at the advert as the role is advertised as a permanent role yet digital is not a thing but rather a collection of ideas and ideals. I doubt digital can ever be described as permanent. Two hundred years ago would there have been an advert for a Chief Steam Officer?
In some ways I think we are focusing on the wrong end of the stick. It is the digital behaviours of our people that we should be addressing. By improving demand, people will see the opportunity and a market for skills will be developed.