The necessary skills for an ICT4D startup?
Inspired by an interview with Reid Hoffman (founder of LinkedIn) on the Khan Academy Entrepreneurship series, I am picking up the central question again: What skills should I develop to create a successful project for social impact, leveraged by the opportunities arising from IT?
Reid Hoffman very deliberately made a list of the skills he needed to develop for his vision and sought (job) opportunities where he could gain experience in those skills. This kind of focus is really impressive - and probably part of reasons for his success. Picking it up from his argument that successful startup teams usually have a business person and a tech person, I am wondering what are the (other) major areas necessary for a social impact / ICT4D startup? Obviously there is the need to understand the sector - the user and/or customer we are trying to serve and impact. But actually even that is not specific to social entrepreneurship (see The Intersection Of Domain And Tech (The Heretic)).
With these general notions of business, tech and "sector" (i.e. wherever the concrete project will innovate) I am not much closer to my list of skills I need to develop, however.
Wayan Vota at least has an encouraging view on the skills question:
Interestingly, most people assume they need to know how to code software or install communications hardware to get a job in ICT4D. However, the majority of employers I talk to are not looking for these "hard" technology skills. IT techies can be found all over the world now.
What employers are looking for is staff with the "soft" skills like clear, concise writing, which is always a critical skill in a development organization, and people skills, which is really flexibility and adaptability. Another key skill is the ability to tell pie in the sky tech ideas from on the ground reality, and the ability to innovate within the real life context of the beneficiaries you work with.
But also, the theme of connecting the development and tech aspects comes up a lot, e.g. some form of "Business Analyst", the analyst role to be the bridge between technology and those technology supported, as an "liaison and translator, for the "big picture and the weeds".
Anyway, for the time being, maybe I'll refine my tech and entrepreneurship related skills and then dive into a sector with social impact to explore and look for problems to solve ...
EDIT: An interesting frame for this are the three roles as technologist, strategist or field-based. See "Roles in ICT4D"