⇓ More from ICTworks

How to Hire Local National ICT4D Staff

By Kristen Roggemann on February 22, 2017

Digital Development Jobs

Kabul, 2016. I’d been here before: a cold cup of Nescafe and stack of overly formatted CVs on the table next to me, an over-worked HR officer slow-blinking at me from across the room in subtle panic.

Of the 35 CVs in the stack, culled from hundreds submitted online, only two had any mention of ICT experience—the rest were full of network engineering degrees, Oracle and Microsoft certifications, and years and years of experience managing IT networks and project systems.

If I had been looking to hire IT staff, I would have been spoiled for options—but I wasn’t. I was trying to hire an ICT officer, and it was almost impossible. Just as it had been in Cambodia, Jordan, and Senegal. Why, oh, why was hiring ICT4D staff so hard, and what could we do about it?

Want to hire amazing ICT4D staff? Advertise your jobs on ICT4Djobs for free!

What’s the Difference Between IT and ICT Anyway?

One of the main reasons for such staffing despair is that the difference between IT and ICT generally is both misunderstood and underestimated. Using definitions painted with the broadest brush possible:

  • IT can be considered the “hard side” of technology – hardware, code, systems administration, server maintenance, and generally thankless but crucial work that allows us all to use project IT assets like computers, web, and server.
  • ICT is generally the “soft side” of technology – designing and managing digital strategies, content and processes, integrating software and technology tools into project programming, working alongside software firms and project staff to customize tools to meet project needs.

While one may think that being good at one of these naturally flows over to the other, they’re actually quite unique skill sets with significant differences between them. Much like being a good cook doesn’t necessarily make one a good host, being great at IT often does not translate to the ICT realm, and vice versa.

Seek and Ye Shall Find: The Right Job Description for the Right Hire

Two key challenges in hiring for ICT in emerging markets are that a) the term, and related skill set, is still quite nascent, and b) strong tertiary education in computer science means there’s a huge amount of qualified IT professionals.

We found that a strong job description, including significant detail around desired experience and keywords and examples that ICT professionals would recognize such as Open Data Kit, Mobile VAS, and shortcode, got us better results in terms of initial applicants (though we still had to wade through a deep pool of CVs to find them).

Know those keywords? Want a dream digital development job? Sign up for ICT4Djobs alerts!

By placing the keywords early on in the job description, we were able to signal to the right candidates to highlight such experience in their CV.

Additionally, and this is perhaps the most important learning, changing the position name from ICT Specialist/Officer to Digital Platform Specialist/Officer or anything without the “I(C)T” in it cut the number of “hard” IT applicants in half, and opened up the pool to candidates with more digital marketing experience (something which aligned much more with what we were looking for).

Questions on Questions on Questions

We were finally able to narrow down our applicant list to two extremely strong candidates after digging deep into their experience during the interview process. Because there is somewhat of a mental block around ICT in the markets we work in, you have to work extra hard to surface experience candidates might have in it.

We did this through scenario questioning, wherein I would describe a typical ICT scenario such as needing to get regulatory approval for a shortcode, and then ask the interviewee how they would solve the problem.

Despite having zero mention of any such work on their CVs, both short-listed candidates had done extensive shortcode work in the past and were able to talk me through various approaches with great fluency.For those that hadn’t done such work, it was obvious right at the beginning of their answer that they weren’t the right fit for the role.

By doing a few such scenarios, we were able to test candidates knowledge of typical ICT terms, skills, and experience without going through their CV job-by-job. Often, we set the CV aside entirely during the interview.

Lessons Learned: Words Matter

While hiring for ICT staff is still a challenge, we’ve worked hard on the ICT Team at DAI to collate lessons learned across countries and projects and come up with guidelines and templates for projects to use in their hiring process.

While these resources are still works in progress, as the market is changing rapidly as more digital jobs come online in emerging markets, these guidelines and sample job descriptions have allowed projects to hire more efficiently for ICT positions, and ensured that projects with robust ICT components have the right people to manage them successfully.

This was originally published as Hiring ICT Staff (Or, How to Get 500 IT CVs Without Really Trying) on [email protected]

Filed Under: Management
More About: , , , , , , , , ,

Kristen Roggemann currently serves as the Principal Mobile Solutions Specialist at DAI. She previously worked at GSMA mWomen, Souktel, Inc., and The Bridgespan Group. Kristen has extensive field experience in the Middle East and Africa working on mobile for development initiatives in both public and private sector contexts and got her start in international development through a Fulbright Scholarship to study women’s literacy in Morocco in 2005.
Stay Current with ICTworksGet Regular Updates via Email

10 Comments to “How to Hire Local National ICT4D Staff”

  1. Matt says:

    Great article, interesting read.

    Just one word of caution – I think the “IT” vs “ICT” description is a little over-simplistic and probably quite regionally, culturally or sectorally specific.

    In the UK I used to work “in IT”… I then went on to work “in ICT” and subsequently in “ICT4D” (ufortunately IT4D never appeared!).

    How different were these 3 fields – not at all. In the 90s in the UK, the government changed its standard terminology from IT to ICT and over the following 5 or so years, most others followed suit. So there was never much of a distinction; in many organisations the jobs from the 80s were “IT Manager”, the same jobs inb the 2000s were “ICT Manager”.

    So while I agree that the implications of the ‘C’ are important, unfortunately I think a simple blanket rule of ignoring IT in favour of ICT could backfire in some instances.

    If it were possible to find an easy way to scan for the related terms (e.g. what other words might appear in a skill/role outline that emphasise the ‘C’ that would be very helpful!)

    • Wayan Vota says:

      I disagree, Matt. While in the U.K. context, or maybe just you ;), ICT and IT might be blurred, in international development we should keep the two very clear.

      – IT is maintaining back end systems. Like the CMS job you sent me recently that supported internal clients.
      – ICT is working on systems that face external constituencies, like health care workers or teachers.

  2. Fred Nwogu says:

    Amazing article. ICT is no more a trademark of IT men.

  3. Elaine Baker says:

    I am not so sure that the terms IT and ICT are capturing what you mean. Both information technology and information and communications technology are more or less the same field, I consider ICT a more up to date version including the communications aspects as well as only the information aspects. I think the difference is between designing and managing ICT4D projects to impact on development for external clients and funders, rather than simply administering, supporting and maintaining an organisation’s internal ICT software and hardware. The difference may be more the 4D part. It would be better to highlight the actual skills needed eg systems design skills, project management skills etc

    • Wayan Vota says:

      Certianly the 4D part matters the most – working with external constituencies – yet, as with my reply to Matt above, there is certianly a difference in IT and ICT in the International development context.

  4. Yared says:

    I loved the article. I just want to add that ICT4D staff must have a dual competency in ICT and development works. Bringing the IT staff to the development work is as challenging as getting the development program officer to the IT world. The mid-line here lies with M&E (including experiences on data management, statistics and humanitarian GIS services) .This softens the merger of these two different worlds.

    • Elaine Baker says:

      I think this also raises the issue of ICT4D being broader than ICT4DM&E ! A bit sub-field of ICT4D is how ICT can be used in M&E of development projects and data collection, but ICT4D is also about technology impacting directly on development. Examples – improving how citizens/beneficiaries interact with service providers or with their Government, improving how agricultural markets work, or improving quality of key services like education and health. I think the common connecting skill needed between ICT and 4D is “systems thinking” – how systems work now and how they can work better.

  5. Amit Chakravarty says:

    Absolutely, the 4D part is extremely critical, which is often overlooked when hiring for ICT4D vacancies. I have had the opposite experience to what Kristen writes about where job opportunities in ICT4D sector, end up rejecting CVs with substantive ICT4D experience and hiring people with IT background and no development experience.

  6. Steven says:

    Hi Kristen – I like that distinction between IT & ICT; I think of it as the distinction between CS and IT, with CS being the rarer, softer, more holistic background, and IT being the more common, harder, niche background. I’m surprised to see that your news hook for this piece is Kabul – I think that place is loaded with genuine ICT4D capacity and critical thinking skills, given the regional educational options & access, and zillion ICT4D opportunities with INGOs and donors. I think the problem in Kabul is more just the CVs – everyone thinks to put forward their certificates, not their problem-solving experience.

  7. Kristen Roggemann says:

    Hi all, thanks for all the thoughtful comments. I’m happy to see that this topic inspires passion! I echo Wayan’s responses so far and agree with the folks who said that development experience is important – this somewhat went without saying but perhaps should have been said. Steven, I agree on Kabul; you’ll be pleased to know we hired two young rockstars for our ICT positions – including an incredible young woman.