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      Revisiting the mismatch between formal education in computer science and the software and information services sector: the case of Argentina

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            The Argentinean software and information services (SIS) sector has grown steadily over the last decade. However, academics, policy makers and managers agree that the shortage of computer science (CS) degree-holders has been (and is) jeopardizing future growth. This paper depicts the situation of formal education in CS and related areas in Argentina, providing the necessary basis from which to call into question the assumption that the primary driving force of a powerful SIS sector is CS graduates. After presenting figures of enrollment, graduates and researchers, we find that while it is true that there is a mismatch between the trends of formal education in CS and that of Argentinean SIS, it is not clear at all that the sector is limited because of that. First, international comparisons with the US and the UK show that the proportion of graduates is not necessarily the main driver of a highly innovative SIS sector. Secondly, qualitative sources underline the relevance of informal learning in the acquisition of the software skills actually used by workers. Additionally, the particular evolution of SIS wages could be limiting the inflow of graduates into the sector.


            Author and article information

            Pluto Journals
            1 June 2014
            : 32
            : 2 ( doiID: 10.1080/prometheus.32.issue-2 )
            : 181-201
            CONICET/ e-TCS/Universidad Maimónides, Virasoro 732, Buenos Aires, Argentina
            © 2014 Pluto Journals

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            Computer science,Arts,Social & Behavioral Sciences,Law,History,Economics


            1. As Jorgenson puts it, ‘software is not merely an essential market commodity but, in fact, embodies the economy's production function itself, providing a platform for innovation in all sectors of the economy’ (Jorgenson, 2006, p.5).

            2. For instance, in 2011 the Strategic Industrial Plan 2020 included software production as a public policy priority (SPEI, 2012).

            3. Both the perceived shortage of qualified human resources as the main obstacle and the automatic translation of skilled workforce into CS degree-holders were apparent in the first meeting of the SIS value chain in March 2012 (SPEI, 2012).

            4. The numbers in the chart take into account only registered employment (unregistered employment in Argentina is still around 37%) and private employment (non-state, nongovernmental organizations, public universities). However, previous work (Zukerfeld, 2011) underlines the relevance of productive processes not measured in these official statistics. So, the employment in software production is probably underestimated here.

            5. However, and in spite of being a minor component, private higher education in CS has increased consistently, both in absolute numbers (from 10,257 in 1995 to 15,488 in 2009) and in the share of total computer science students (from 16.7% in 2001 to 19.1% in 2009).

            6. An objection can be raised. In the US, some degrees obtained from universities are certified by other sorts of tertiary institutions in Argentina. Typically, this is the case for the disciplines related to education. While in the US they account for 6.4% of total degrees, in Argentina they account for barely 0.4%. The point here – we thank Andrés López for noting this – is that the homogenization of these numbers implies an increase in the relative weight of US degrees in computer science. Nevertheless, the magnitude of the change is marginal and does not alter the point we make.

            7. The graph may stimulate discussions that go far beyond the scope of this paper. For instance, the reader will note the huge share of law graduates in Argentina, and might wonder what effect this has on a national system of innovation.

            8. Graduate research assistants are full-time graduate students with research assistantships as their main source of income.

            9. Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Lawrence Ellison (Oracle), Michael Dell (Dell), Jack Dorsey (Twitter), Matt Mullenweg (WordPress) and Arash Ferdowsi (DropBox) are just a few.

            10. For instance, the program Dale Aceptar, which stimulates school childrens' ability to develop videogames (Fundación Sadosky, 2014).


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