Crossing the digital bridge

Are organisations doing enough to reduce the digital talent gap?

The pace of change in technology is accelerating faster than we have ever seen, and the demand for expertise in new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT), far outstrips the digital talent available. Digital talent is rapidly becoming the essential must-have skillset in all workplaces today.

As technology continues to revolutionise the way we live and work, the impact of this change is also dramatically affecting the skills needed in the workplace today. For example, as cryptocurrencies flourish, and as more businesses experiment with blockchain technology, there were four times as many blockchain-related job postings on LinkedIn in 2017. Machine learning is automating many existing occupations, freeing up workers to focus on new tasks and leading to rapidly changing core skill sets.

The Future of Jobs Report from the World Economic Forum, warns that by the end of the decade, more than a third of the desired core skill sets of most occupations will include skills that are not considered crucial today.

According to e-Conomy Southeast Asia Spotlight 2017, joint research by Google and Temasek Holdings, the shortage of technology talent remains the most pressing challenge for growth. Digital talent combines both hard and soft skills. The hard skills include the application and practice of technology such as cloud computing, big data, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, IoT and more. The necessary soft skills are using these technologies to scale and innovate, make better business decisions with data-driven insights, digitally transform and improve the organisation’s processes and more.

Having digital talent would enable businesses to accelerate their digital transformation through the use of technology, allowing them to compete more effectively and efficiently in the digital economy; keep up with the evolving needs of today’s customers; and continuously innovate to drive greater business outcomes. As businesses move towards a digitalised model, soft digital skills will become equally as important as hard digital skills.

The importance of ensuring that students today are equipped to speak “digital” is a non-debate. Given the rapid pace of change, the question becomes what organisations can do to reduce the digital talent gap and equip their own future workforce with the necessary digital skills?


Collaborate with schools to bring their STEM programmes to life           

Supporting Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) in schools creates opportunities for organisations to directly influence the career paths of their future employees and develop the next generation of talent. Supporting these programmes encourages students to consider new career paths and develop digital literacy skills early, preparing them for successful careers in the booming field of technology.


Inclusive outreach to all future members of the future workforce

Organisations that reach out to a diverse group of human capital and shift their culture towards inclusion will make a big step forward in closing the digital skill gap. According to a UNESCO study, the number of female students enrolled in STEM fields accounts for less than 35% globally. Organisations should initiate outreach to women in STEM fields and offer them equal opportunity to advance. This could be in the form of professional mentorship programmes to encourage more women leadership.

Young people from disadvantaged communities often lack access to quality learning opportunities. These individuals may not have a pathway to prosperity in the digital economy. Get started by presenting these young people with real-world job experience within an organisation and training them in key digital technology skills.


Individuals have a part to play too

While enterprises can look at funding organisation-wide training in emerging technologies or even shaking up the C-Level boardroom with new digital-focused roles, individuals must take the plunge as well. With the digital economy becoming ‘business as usual’, individuals must find the time to pick one of the many areas in technology to immerse themselves in. Understanding how these technologies work is the first step to expanding and advancing an individual’s digital skill sets. This can begin with researching and self-studying online, and then leveraging social enterprises or public programmes to develop these skills at a low cost or no cost.


About the author

Nilesh Mistry, Vice President & Head of Asia-Pacific, World Wide Technology

Partnering with governments for a bold vision

Nations across Asia-Pacific have a bold vision for their digital initiatives – from China’s One Belt, One Road, India’s Digital India to Singapore’s Smart Nation. Success of these visions hinges on having a strong digital talent pool capable of solving digital challenges along the way. Beyond organisational and individual efforts, businesses can collaborate with each other and with governments, pooling their resources to help bridge the digital talent gap.


Transformation is the name of the game

The adoption of digital technology across the industry is not going to slow down anytime soon. From cybersecurity to artificial intelligence, and digital retail to virtual medicine, there are now broad options for every citizen and professional to get involved in the digital economy.


Unless we make a conscious effort to bridge the digital skill gap, it may continue to widen before it gets better.

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