Asia Pacific is expected to reap economic gains of more than US$8.6 trillion from the digital economy until 2025, according to the Asian Development Bank.
However, the talent shortage might be standing in the way of that. The ASEAN Foundation found that 47% and 37% of workers in Singapore and Thailand respectively are mismatched for their jobs. Individuals might decide to work in a field unrelated to the one they studied for various reasons, including a lack of job opportunities in their field.
Promoting the development of advanced digital skills, however, requires discussions and efforts from various stakeholders. Recognising this, Huawei and the ASEAN Foundation brought together representatives from government, academia, and industry to discuss the development of a future-ready ICT talent pool in the region at the Asia Pacific Digital Talent Summit in Bangkok. Held on September 19, the summit was held as part of Huawei Connect 2022.
“[The summit] is essential to foster discussion and coordinate efforts on how we can cultivate innovative ICT talents in the region, identify their current status, address digital adversities and inequalities, and determine the step forward,” Ekkaphab Phanthavong, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for Socio-Cultural Community, tells attendees at the summit.
The ASEAN Foundation's Executive Director Dr. Yang Mee Eng, adds: “We are bringing key stakeholders across the region to enhance consensus, tackle difficulties, and take ample actions to resolve digital gaps, cultivate innovative talents, and unleash digital transformation for the region.”
Current initiatives to close the skills gap
Government representatives from across the region shared their current initiatives in talent cultivation during the summit.
“In Indonesia, we are transforming our education system to be digitally ready and developing a talent pool of digital technology through multiple initiatives,” says Prof. Nizam, Indonesia's Director General of Higher Education under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology.
Meanwhile, Dr. Phichet Phophakdee, Inspector-General of the Ministry of Education of Thailand, shares that the country is developing and embracing “distance learning platforms and resources, such as Digital Learning Television (DLTV), to ensure learning opportunities are available for everyone.” He claims: “The future of education will depend on us being more united and innovating to make our nation's education more inclusive, more equitable, and higher quality.”
As for Cambodia, it has added digital subjects to its school curriculums, apart from leveraging online platforms and establishing new community tech centres for students. “We are also enhancing work with vocational training schools to provide digital training for those already in the workforce,” states Cambodia's Secretary of State, Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, Sok Puthyvuth.
Suggestions for talent development
Academics at the event also recommended ways to further the region’s talent development efforts. Former Vice-President of Japan's Yokohama National University Hitoshi Yamada, for instance, suggests that international exchange can transform digital talent development.
On the other hand, Prof. Guo Yike from Hong Kong Baptist University believes artificial intelligence (AI) can be a creative force in the co-creation of art by humans and machines. This is demonstrated by the world’s first AI ensemble called Turing AI Orchestra (TAIO). Powered by the Huawei Cloud AI model Pangu, TAIO offers an open platform for artists and scientists worldwide to collaborate within a dynamic and innovative environment. It is therefore expected to produce AI research that will disrupt the art field. Prof Guo foresees “TAIO to promote transdisciplinary education to the next generation.”
Additionally, the summit featured a panel discussion that touched on the importance of including young people in digital inclusion policymaking. It also called for collective actions among the private sector, academia and the government for digital inclusion in this era.
Michele Wucker, the global best-selling author of The Gray Rhino and one of the panellists, says: “The gray rhino of digital transformation is different for different groups – for young people in terms of their own education, for business in terms of how they hire and operate, for policymakers in terms of how they facilitate the atmosphere that united everyone and deal with it, which involves both obstacles and opportunities. You can see the rhinos coming at you – you can stand still and get trampled; or you can take its strength, harness it and use it to pull everyone forward.”
“Nearly all Asia Pacific countries are empowering ICT talents, especially young people, to boost the digital economy. As a global company rooted in local markets, Huawei will keep strengthening the talent ecosystem through leadership, skill, and knowledge,” shares Simon Lin, president for Huawei Asia Pacific.
This is why Huawei launched its first international training initiative on Cyber Security Talent Development Solution and Certification Standards, at the summit. It also plans to publish a whitepaper on Thailand's National Digital Talent Development in October 2022.
“Connecting people and building the next generation of talent is more important than ever for driving forward digital transformation. For more than 20 years, we’ve worked closely with partners in Asia Pacific to provide Internet access to the unconnected. Meanwhile, we are on track to meet our goal of training 500,000 ICT talents in the region by 2026,” says Jeff Wang, Huawei's president of Public Affairs and Communications.