How to stop worrying and love SoFIA

Dr Nick Tate1,2

1The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia,

2Haroldton Associates, Brisbane, Australia


There is a looming crisis in the availability of ICT resources and this is likely to have a significant effect on eResearch.

This presentation is a “call to arms” as it explores how to attract and retain high quality ICT staff within eResearch in the face of a growing ICT skills shortage, which may prove a barrier to further development of the sector. By mapping the specialist skills that are needed in the eResearch domain, to an ICT competency framework, which has substantial international acceptance, ICT staff would be able to demonstrate increasing competency in a way which would be recognised by industry, Government and the profession both nationally and internationally.

Research published in June 2017 by the Australian Computer Society and Deloitte Access Economics [1] shows that the demand for ICT skills in Australia is high and increasing. The report predicts the need for an additional 81,040 ICT workers by 2022. Unfortunately, only around 4,000 domestic undergraduate ICT students a year are graduating from Australian Universities. This leaves an obvious shortfall which has to date been filled by migration. However, the market for ICT skills is now very global and Australia must compete for talent. Recent national policy changes for immigration may also increase barriers for migration.

The outcome of this shortfall is likely to lead to increasing difficulty in attracting and retaining skilled ICT staff within eResearch groups as the competition grows. Research groups have traditionally attracted staff through offering interesting work and opportunities for professional development, rather than on salary. Industry has fewer constraints in this regard.

A further looming barrier is that government and commercial organisations are increasingly using an ICT skills framework as a means of standardising the assessment of ICT competencies and as a means of demonstrating increasing competence. Many HR teams use this framework to underpin decisions on recruitment and workforce development. This may lead to a reluctance on behalf of ICT staff to join eResearch teams if their increasing competence and experience is not well represented within the framework.

It is indeed fortunate that one of the underlying components of a solution to this problem already exists. Australia has predominantly adopted a global ICT skills framework called the “Skills Framework for the Information Age” or SFIA (pronounced SoFIA). This framework is currently in use in nearly 200 economies around the world which includes many in the Asia-Pacific region. The current version of SFIA (V6), covers 97 skills and up to 7 levels at which these skills might be exercised. [2]

This framework will also form the basis of an Asia Pacific wide common skills framework being developed by the South-East Asia Regional Computer Confederation (SEARCC), potentially in conjunction with APEC.

There is, however, no specific mapping for the unique blend of skills possessed by ICT staff working in eResearch. Without such a mapping, there is a chance that many highly skilled ICT staff may bypass eResearch to the detriment of the sector because it is harder to demonstrate their skillset outside the sector.

This presentation will explain the benefits of an eResearch mapping for SFIA and how it might be achieved through the example of mapping a specific set of competencies.


  1. Deloitte Access Economics with the Australian Computer Society (ACS), Australia’s Digital Pulse 2017
  2. SFIA Foundation, SFIA Reference Guide V6


Dr Nick Tate is an Author, CEO, Managing Director of Haroldton Associates and Adjunct Professor at the University of Queensland (UQ). He spent over 4 years as Director of the RDSI project, forerunner of the current RDS project and is co-founder of the eResearch Australasia conference, which he chaired or co-chaired for a decade. Nick has over 40 years’ experience in IT including 16 years at CIO level in UQ and 2 London banks, as well as 17 years’ experience as a Company Director in 11 Australian and 2 US companies. He is a former Chair of CAUDIT, Director of AusCERT and President of the Australian Computer Society (ACS). He has a PhD in Cybersecurity and is co-author of “A Director’s Guide to Governing Information Technology and Cybersecurity”, a book published by the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD). Nick is currently President of the South-East Asia Regional Computer Confederation (SEARCC) and Director of SEARCC’s project for developing a Common Skills Framework for the Asia-Pacific Region.

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