Massive shortage of tech talent looms as Asia takes to digitalisation

A 2022 Digital talent Insight report estimates a shortage of 47 million tech talent by 2030 in the Asia Pacific region


Asia needs to increase investments significantly to develop digital talent, experts said. File Photo: The Jakarta Post

November 3, 2021

JAKARTA – 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.

It says PwC found in a survey that more than 50 per cent of Asia Pacific CEOs 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 program 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.

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, during the summit.

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

“It goes beyond skills. Skills can be learned,” said Mr Gokhan Ogut, CEO of Malaysian telco Maxis Berhad.

“It’s also about the mindset and culture,” he remarked, adding digital talent need to think of customers first and can challenge the status quo.

“We dub it as transformational leadership,” he said.

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

“[Individuals] should be able to rethink and not stick to the established solution,” he said.

Huawei’s 2022 Digital Talent Insight paper 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 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 named as Starters, Adopters, and Frontrunners.

Singapore, South Korea and Japan have been classified as frontrunners, while China, Malaysia and Thailand have been classifed as Adopters while Indonesia, India, Vietnam, 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,” it adds.

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