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Great demand for digital competence in the public sector

An increasingly digital society places new demands on employees to meet future challenges. A new report from the Swedish Center for Digital Innovation at the University of Gothenburg shows that the public sector has doubled its demand for digital competence in its job advertisements in the period 2006−2019 to meet the new needs.

johan magnusson
Johan Magnusson, researcher in informatics.

The requirement for digital competence exists today in all professional areas and affects virtually everyone who works. The reason is that organizations are increasingly relying on digital solutions in their work, from basic knowledge of everyday software to the digital expert role.

Despite this, there is a lack of overall analyzes what the demand for digital competence looks like in the private and public sector, and how it has developed over time.

–  In order to be able to look at the need for digital competence in the public sector, our research group examined approximately 1.3 million job advertisements at the Swedish Public Employment Service. Using an EU definition, the content of the ads was analyzed using a specially developed software. In this way, we got an index and could, thanks to various comparative figures, see the development, says Johan Magnusson, associate professor in Informatics.

Largest increase in the municipalities

The results show a doubling in the demand for digital competence during the period 2006−2019 in the public sector. And it is especially the municipalities that stand out with the largest increase.

–  Due to new digital systems, the municipalities must employ staff who understand and can work with the technology. What we see is the beginning of a great wave of digital competence that is washing over the municipalities, says Johan Magnusson.

One example is job advertisements for leisure educators or after school-teachers, where he sees a large increase. From being a professional category where the demand for digital competence was low, there is a now great need.

–  I think this is partly due to the increased use of digital learning platforms and other web-based tools for attendance registration and planning.

Comparison between public and private sector

There is also a difference between the different levels of the public sector. In addition to the municipalities' increase, the demand for digital competence has somewhat stalled in the government sector and stopped completely in the regional sector from 2016.

–  One of the reasons may be that both the state and the regions believe that they have met the need for digital competence within their organizations. This is despite the fact that the digital development of society is pointing in the opposite direction.

The report also includes a comparison between the private and public sectors. The analysis shows that the private sector shows a higher demand for digital competence than the public sector. At the current pace, the public organizations in terms of digital competence will not catch up with the private sector until 2035.

– The effect is that digitalisation is lagging behind in public organizations due to a lack of competence. Companies have come a long way in their digitalisation and a digital way of working is seen as more natural for running the business, says Johan Magnusson.