Using Citizen Development to Solve the State and Local Government IT Talent Problem

Posted on October 25, 2023

A series of maroon tiles arrange on a diagonal. Each tile contains a letter and together the tiles spell Motivation.

Today’s Morning Buzz is brought to you by Bill Brantley, Chief Learning Officer for BAS2A (instructional design and talent development consultancy) in College Park, MD. Connect with Bill on LinkedIn

What I’m Reading: “The Rise of the Mutant Learner: How to Learn and Lead Effectively in the Digital Age” by Treion Muller with Jeanette Lewis.

What I’m Watching: The second season of “Loki” and the fourth season of “Star Trek: Lower Decks.”

What I’m Working On: Prepping for an eight-hour workshop on teaching government employees how to create persuasive stories with data.

Finding and keeping IT talent is only going to get harder for state and local government,” according to speakers at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers’ August 2023 event. 

Retirements have significantly increased while state and local governments have trouble recruiting young IT workers. And when governments can hire younger employees, the new hires don’t stay long. For example, in 2021, the Texas state government reported a 38% turnover rate for employees under 30

The Global Shortage of Software Developers

The global tech industry faces a significant deficit in skilled software developers, exacerbated by the digital transformation surge during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to data from Korn Ferry, there could be a worldwide shortage of 4.3 million IT professionals, including software developers, by 2030. This gap is partly due to the rapid innovation and implementation of technology in various sectors, outpacing the number of trained professionals entering the field. The expanding realms of AI, IoT, and blockchain, among others, demand specialized skills. Consequently, companies, nonprofits, and the public sector are experiencing fierce competition in recruiting top talent, leading to increased salaries and benefits packages. 

The Rise of Citizen Development

Rather than fight for an ever-shrinking population of software developers, organizations are turning to citizen development. Citizen development uses non-technical employees’ no-code/low-code tools to build online and mobile apps. Employees can easily fit programming code blocks together to create simple and sophisticated apps. 

According to Gartner, by the end of 2023, the number of active citizen developers at large enterprises will be at least four times that of professional developers. This surge is facilitated by the advent of low-code and no-code platforms, allowing individuals with no formal technological training to create applications, analyze data sets, and automate processes. The proliferation of these platforms, which generated over $29 billion in revenue in 2022 per Forrester’s predictions, is a testament to the growing reliance on citizen developers. Businesses leverage this trend to drive innovation, reduce pressure on IT departments, and accelerate digital transformation. 

Citizen Development in State and Local Governments

In the evolving landscape of digital governance, state and local government entities are increasingly leveraging citizen-developed applications to enhance service delivery, engagement, and operational efficiency. Citizen-developed applications, often created by local tech enthusiasts, independent developers, or through hackathons organized by civic bodies, provide innovative solutions tailored to community-specific needs.

These applications range from platforms for reporting local issues like potholes and broken streetlights to tools that simplify access to local government resources, such as public records or recreational park details. By utilizing these applications, government employees can directly interact with data and feedback provided by citizens, thereby making informed decisions that reflect community needs.

Moreover, these applications are instrumental in promoting transparency and accountability. State and local government employees use them to disseminate information regarding municipal budgets, local ordinances, and community projects, ensuring that citizens are well-informed and actively participating in governance processes.

Additionally, local governments employ citizen-developed applications for real-time information dissemination, resource tracking, and gathering citizen reports in emergency management and response. These applications enhance the agility and responsiveness of public services during critical times.

Using Citizen Development to Recruit the Younger Generations into State and Local Government

Promoting citizen development within state and local governments opens a new avenue for attracting young talent, addressing both the public sector’s need for digital rejuvenation and the aspirations of a tech-savvy generation. By embracing citizen development, governments signal a shift towards a more innovative, inclusive, and agile work environment, qualities that resonate with younger demographics.

Citizen development initiatives, such as hackathons, digital workshops, and collaborative platforms, engage young individuals in community-focused problem-solving, often providing the first step toward a career in public service. These initiatives allow participants to witness the direct impact of their technological contributions on their communities, fostering a sense of civic responsibility and purpose-driven employment.

Furthermore, as digital natives, young individuals bring fresh perspectives, creativity, and an innate affinity for technology to the public sector. By offering a more dynamic work landscape that values these traits, governments can alter the perception of public sector employment — from bureaucratic and rigid to one that is innovative and impactful.

By championing citizen development, state and local governments are not just modernizing their services; they are strategically positioning themselves as appealing and competitive employers for the younger, digitally inclined generation. This approach enriches the workforce and ensures that governments are technologically adept and reflective of the communities they serve.

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