UK government facing tech skills 'crisis'

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The UK Government is facing a technology skills crisis, with hundreds of job posts remaining unfilled, according to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests submitted by Acquia which also revealed many departments were failing to meet the government’s open source guidelines.

Based on the information provided by the 12 government departments that responded to the FOI requests, a concerning 28% of software vacancies remain unfilled. Although 808 developers are employed by the UK Government, 317 developer positions remain open.

Other noteworthy findings include the fact that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport does not develop any of its own software, while Acquia was also able to discern how much each department spent on software development. The FOI requests showed that the Department for International Trade spent nearly as much on software development as seven other departments combined - £10.5 million.

Opening up

Disappointingly, Acquia also discovered that many departments were failing to adhere to the government’s own Code of Practice, which encourages the use of open source software. Among the worst offenders is the Department for Work and Pensions, which only uses open source code to build between 3.5 and 3.7% of its applications.

"Open source software enables businesses and governments to accelerate innovation, tap into expertise from the world's best developers, and develop better technology, so it's great to see it championed in the government's Technology Code of Practice," Tom Bianchi, VP for the EMEA region at Acquia, commented. 

"However, our research clearly shows that more needs to be done before Downing Street can be said to fully practice what it preaches. And when it is facing such a severe skills gap, adopting open source will enable the government to do more with less and act much more efficiently to mitigate the impact of resourcing challenges."

Filling its vacant software development positions may not be an easy task. Although these positions need to be filled relatively quickly, improving the digital skills and knowledge base in the country will take some time.

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Barclay Ballard

Barclay has been writing about technology for a decade, starting out as a freelancer with ITProPortal covering everything from London’s start-up scene to comparisons of the best cloud storage services.  After that, he spent some time as the managing editor of an online outlet focusing on cloud computing, furthering his interest in virtualization, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.