UK government faces software skills crisis

Governments don't have a good record when delivering IT projects, but a new study from digital experience company Acquia that the UK government is facing a major software skills crisis.

Results show that 28 percent of vacancies remain unfilled. Across the 12 departments which responded to freedom of information requests, some 317 developer positions are open, while just 808 developers are currently employed.

Acquia also looked at how the Government is approaching software development, and how use of open source software correlates with Downing Street's Technology Code of Practice. It finds that despite acknowledging the clear benefits of open source software, some Government departments have yet to fully embrace it.

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The Department for Work and Pensions, for example, only uses open source code to build between 3.5 and 3.7 percent of its applications, while the Department for International Trade and the Transport Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency have harnessed open source to build 60 percent and 75 percent of applications respectively. On the other end of the scale, 90 percent of services developed by the Cabinet Office are built using open source, as are all of the Department for Transport’s.

"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," says Tom Bianchi, VP marketing EMEA, Acquia. "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."

The study is based on FOI requests submitted in September 2020, with responses received during October 2020.

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