The President: Harmonising IT

In late February and early March, Prins travelled to Malaysia, Sri Lanka and India for meetings with other national and international professional societies. In this column, he details some of the key themesThe trip included chairing a meeting of the SEARCC (South East Asia Region Computer Confederation) Executive Council, and representing Australia at a Council meeting of IFIP (International Federation for Information Processing), which is the global professional body.

One of the key themes to emerge from these gatherings was the growing demand from industry and business for standardised testing of professional IT skills to support organisations operating on an international scale.

The issue of harmonising the profession across international boundaries has become critical in light of the trend towards globalisation and the worsening IT skills crisis. Since technology transcends international boundaries, IT professionals are increasingly being recruited to fill vacancies outside their native countries.

Professional bodies are seeking to identify a benchmark set of competencies that can be examined to establish the skills and expertise of IT professionals when they are entering a new country or being considered for employment within an organisation.

Since formal qualifications vary between institutions and between nations, so it is often difficult to gauge the competence of an individual based on their degree. Similarly, many IT practitioners might not possess a degree, but in the course of their career they have acquired knowledge, skills and experience equal to a tertiary qualification.

Within Australia, ACS membership provides employers with a reliable guide when looking for a qualified IT professional, but in some cases there is a need for a competency- or examination-based mechanism to test knowledge and skills. The ACS Examination fills this need for a comprehensive testing mechanism and has in fact been adopted by some professional societies in SE Asia. The ACS now provides the accepted benchmark used for an alternate route of entry into the profession in the vast majority of SEARCC member countries.

The ACS is leading the world in this area of harmonising professional standards.

In addition, our work in certifying IT professionals in a range of specialist areas under the ACS Certification Program encompasses such disciplines as IT Strategy and Management, Project Management, Marketing and Selling IT, Systems Integration, and Data Communications.

The SEARCC Special Regional Interest Group exploring the issue of professional harmonisation plans to consider the ACS model in its work to develop a certification program for professionals throughout the industry and across the region.

As a regional leader, the ACS also plays a major role in contributing to the annual SEARCC Conference and Exhibition, which will this year be staged in Singapore from 1-3 December.

SEARCC'99 will provide an ideal opportunity to network and compare notes with peers from around the region, update your knowledge and skills, and see the latest technology developments.

Those of us who took part in SEARCC'98 in Darwin last July can testify to the value of this event in broadening our horizons and gaining useful contacts with IT professionals from other countries.

Why not make a note in your diary and plan to join me in Singapore this year for SEARCC'99.

Prins Ralston is president of the ACS

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