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Cultivating digital talent is key to strengthening digital ecosystem in Asia Pacific

By Patricia Mirasol

There is one vital component for post-pandemic recovery and growth in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region: digital talent investment. The Seeds for the Future program, which went online in 2020, aims to help develop the needed local information and communication technologies (ICT) talents, 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 Yang Mee Eng, executive director of the ASEAN Foundation, which promotes the development of citizens in Southeast Asia. The nonprofit signed a cooperation agreement for the education program with Huawei, a multinational technology corporation.

At a Nov. 3 digital talent summit organized by Huawei, Ms. Yang said graduates of the program have a chance to participate in a technology-for-good competition based on the United Nation’s sustainable development goals, with the winners provided the funds to realize their projects.

Seeds for the Future has an ambassador for each of the 10 countries represented by the ASEAN, who in turn shares inputs with the nonprofit on how to further improve the education program.

“[Giving out tests] is an old school way of measuring impact, and is no longer valid now,” Ms. Yang told the event participants. With the experience gleaned from its previous programs, the ASEAN foundation has vast experience in measuring impact, added Ms. Yang.

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 digital talent summit.

“It goes beyond skills. Skills can be learned. It’s also about the mindset and culture,” said Gokhan Ogut, CEO of Maxis Berhad, a communication service provider in Malaysia. “We dub it as transformational leadership.”

Maxis, Mr. Ogut said, wants all its talents to focus on the customer, go for what’s possible, and take ownership of the company.

“Talents need to have the mindset to commit to things that are possible,” said Mr. Orgut, adding that his company is upskilling and reskilling all of its employees as needed. “If [talents] know they have that license, [then] it empowers them to deliver what is possible with tech.”

Challenging the status quo, or rethinking, is also part of the S.M.A.R.T. framework said Vu Ming Khuong, associate professor at National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. Strategic objectives, momentum building, acquisition of knowledge, and trust building form the framework’s other parts.

“[Individuals] should be able to rethink and not stick to the established solution,” he said. Fostering synergy is also important, he added, because a group of people coming together can do something no one individual can.

Understanding artificial intelligence, cloud computing, the Internet of Things, and 5G are all necessary, but the first step is figuring out how to derive value with technology.

“That’s why I emphasize building momentum and applying digital solutions to your job, to improve yourself and create value for the community,” Mr. Vu told the roundtable participants.

According to a study by Korn Ferry, the Asia and the Pacific region will face an estimated shortage of 47 million tech talents by 2030. Huawei’s 2022 Digital Talent Insight paper calls for wide-scale digital upskilling, which it deems an urgent priority, especially as the world rebounds in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students can apply to Seeds for the Future through their schools or through

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