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Tech giants in WEF pledge to develop digital skills for future-focused Asean workforce

Nov 20. 2018
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By The Nation

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A coalition of major tech companies has pledged to develop digital skills for the Asean workforce.

The pledge, part of the World Economic Forum’s “Digital Asean” initiative, aims to train by 2020 some 20 million people in Southeast Asia, especially those working in small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the WEF said in a statement released on Monday.

Other goals include raising US$2 million (Bt65.8 million) in contributions to provide scholarships for Asean technology students, ensuring an additional 200,000 digital workers are hired across the region, and engaging at least 20,000 citizens through “Digital Inspiration Days”, whereby companies invite students and the public to visit their offices and learn more about the character of the jobs of the future.

There will also be internship opportunities for Asean university students, as well as initiatives to train digital regulators and shape the curricula of technology and computing courses at 20 Asean universities, the statement said.

The aim of the pledge is to establish a regional movement among businesses committed to empowering individuals through skilling, reskilling and upskilling.

It will not only increase the number of workers hired for digital jobs and trained in digital skills, but also help support business leaders with insight and analysis of what other companies in the region are doing to build a future-focused workforce.

“The ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ is unfolding at accelerating speed and changing the skills that workers will need for the jobs of the future,” said Justin Wood, head of Asia Pacific and member of the executive committee at the WEF.

“These changes are happening just as the working-age population in Asean is expanding by 11,000 people every day – a rate that will continue for the next 15 years. Given these trends, it’s critical that businesses help to build digital skills in Asean,” he added.

Called the “Asean Digital Skills Vision 2020”, the public pledge is open for all companies to join, but a number of early champions have already made strong commitments.

Google has pledged to train 3 million SME employees throughout Asean by the end of 2020, while Cisco, Lazada, Microsoft, and the Sea Group have pledged to train another 5,634,000 SME workers.

The pledge also calls for companies to offer Asean citizens the opportunity to participate in “Digital Inspiration Days”, and Cisco, Microsoft, Grab and Sea Group have collectively committed to offer the opportunity to 1,035,000 Asean citizens by 2020.

Similarly, the pledge calls for internships for Asean university students, and Microsoft, Sea Group and Tokopedia together have committed to hiring 18,000 interns.

Microsoft has also vowed to hire an additional 8,500 Asean digital workers by 2020, the statement said.

Supported by the WEF’s “Digital Asean” initiative, success stories and innovative approaches will be shared through an online platform to magnify their impact, and a series of workshops involving the private sector and government will be staged over the next two years to ensure the efforts of businesses that both align with, and help to shape, public policy on training and education.

The “Digital Asean” initiative was launched by the WEF in Singapore in April 2018 in response to demand from the forum’s regional partners in Asean, both public and private.

The aim is to work on the issues that will underpin a regional digital economy in Asean so that the benefits of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” can be fully unlocked and become a force for regional economic inclusion, the statement said.

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