September 15, 2009Doug Hadden
Many Caribbean governments face similar challenges. These challenges are being discussed at the Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Centre (CARTAC) FMI conference being held in Belize. IT retention is a shared challenge.
Many emerging economy countries struggle with civil service capacity building. Caribbean countries appear to have a higher capacity than many emerging economies. Yet, there is an economy of scale problem – Caribbean countries are small with vibrant economies Vibrant economies have strong private sectors. Governments in the Caribbean compete against the private sector for IT jobs. And, fluency in English gives IT government professionals in the Caribbean with many emigration options in North America.
Caribbean governments have succeeded in building IT capacity. This capacity can be quickly lost to the private sector. One presentation today showed how IT turnover was the highest of any category in the government.
CARTAC is a unique organization – run by regional governments who set priorities, rather than donors. These governments share practices and technology. Caribbean governments can leverage lessons learned from software steering committees like the FreeBalance International Steering Committee (FISC) and government user groups as practiced by Government of Canada clusters like:
- Setting the direction of financial software management companies
- Certifying new versions of software as acceptable
- Managing software customization (for vendors other than FreeBalance)
- Collective support and assistance
Civil Service Reform
Many Caribbean countries are reforming the civil service to support retention. Incentives and changes to salary scales have been used. Caribbean countries have discovered that salaries are not enough to retain IT employees. Retention has been improved by providing training to improve skills and presenting IT professionals with new challenges. Government benefit programs can provide good value and stability. Succession planning helps staff to foresee advancement.
There were some interesting ideas advanced that could improve IT capacity building and retention. An appropriate management of outsourcing non-core functions can release IT professionals to handle important functions. The use of multimedia and Web 2.0 technology can improve capacity building and training.