Massive shortage of tech talent looms as Asia takes to digitalisation

The digitalisation landscape in the region is diverse. PHOTO: THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

JAKARTA (ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Asia is set for a digital transformation. And a crisis.

Emerging technologies such as 5G, Cloud Computing, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things will dramatically reshape the digital economy.

But digital talent to allow the region to make the most of the opportunity is lacking.

Experts from the region called for a significant increase in investments to develop digital talent to meet the growing demand at a Digital Talent Summit webinar organised by the Asean Foundation and Chinese telecom giant Huawei.

A 2022 Digital Talent Insight report released at the meeting quotes international consultant Korn Ferry as estimating a shortage of 47 million tech talent by 2030 in the Asia-Pacific region.

The report says PwC found in a survey that more than 50 per cent of Asia-Pacific chief executives say it is difficult to hire digital talent with the right skills.

The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the landscape further, experts at the forum noted.

To develop digital talent, the Foundation announced the launch of a new partnership with Huawei to implement a regional Seeds For The Future programme.

Besides developing information and communication technologies talent, the initiative seeks to enhance knowledge transfer and promote regional participation in the digital community.

"This programme not only trains youth on technical skills, it also provides a platform for them to apply what was learned," said Ms Yang Mee Eng, executive director of the Asean Foundation.

During the summit, Huawei announced it intends to spend US$50 million (S$68 million) over five years to train nearly 500,000 people in new digital technologies in the Asia-Pacific region.

According to panelists at a roundtable discussion at the summit, the proper mindset, more than the acquisition of technical know-how, is what is needed to thrive in the digital economy.

"It goes beyond skills. Skills can be learned," said Mr Gokhan Ogut, the CEO of Malaysian telco Maxis.

He noted that it is "also about the mindset and culture", adding that digital talent need to think of customers first and challenge the status quo.

"We dub it as transformational leadership," he said.

Huawei announced a spending of US$50 million over five years to train nearly 500,000 people in new digital technologies, in the Asia-Pacific region. PHOTO: REUTERS

Dr Vu Minh Khuong from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore said that, apart from the ability to "make a breakthrough", new digital talent also need to have the skills to foster synergy, and even to transform the world with innovations.

"They should be able to rethink and not stick to the established solutions," he said.

The report calls for wide-scale digital upskilling through cooperation between the government, industry and the academic sector to improve the availability of digital talent.

Calling for more investment in digital infrastructure, the report highlights three Global Connectivity Index (CGI) Country Clusters existing in Asia. The GCI index is a barometer of digital readiness from a national and a business perspective.

The three clusters are: starters, adopters and front runners.

Singapore, South Korea and Japan have been classified as front runners, while China, Malaysia and Thailand have been classified as adopters. Indonesia, India, Vietnam, the Philippines, Pakistan and Bangladesh have been labelled starters.

The digitalisation landscape in the region is diverse, with national and regional differences in readiness, capitalisation and regulatory capacities of digital transformation, it notes.

"Digitalisation should be encouraged in that it can create new growth opportunities," the report adds.

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