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Advancing Digital Skilling in the Digital Transformation Era

Date:
31 October 2023

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Jakarta/Singapore/Manila, 31 October 2023: The Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), the Asian Development Bank's (ADB) Southeast Asia Development Solutions Knowledge and Development Platform (SEADS) and Amazon Web Services (AWS) held a webinar which explored the importance of digital skilling for organizations and workers in the Asia–Pacific, and the types of digital skills which will allow workers to increase their economic value and also allow organisations to innovate. The webinar was joined by more than 200 online participants from Asia-Pacific.

In the age of digital transformation, the demand for digital skills has reached unprecedented heights across industries. As technology continues to revolutionise the way we work, businesses are increasingly relying on digital tools and platforms to streamline operations, reach wider audiences, and stay ahead in the competitive market. This shift has resulted in a significant transformation in the job market, with a rising emphasis on hiring individuals with a diverse range of digital skills. For instance, according to an Asian Development Bank (ADB) 2022 report, over the past five years 75% of employers in four countries in Asia and the Pacific have reported a rise in demand for new hires with digital skills.

Regulators and governments, on the other hand, must invest in supporting the workforce to develop the necessary digital skills to thrive in future labour markets — identifying the most important competencies and occupations which require them. Education systems will also need to adapt to ensure a digital-ready workforce emerges from schools, colleges and universities.

The webinar was opened by AWS Public Policy Analyst Manvinder Bhullar, who welcomed the audience and highlighted the importance of digital skilling to achieve digital transformation and what the public and private sectors can do to invest in it.

Singapore Management University, Associate Professor of Information System, Kyong Jin Shim, shared her insights from a higher education perspective on matching and producing the right talents in line with industry demand. She stressed the importance of partnering with companies or institutions to give tailored training so students can be job-ready. In particular, she emphasised the need to equip students with digital skills, artificial intelligence (AI) and technology, as she sees this as a determining factor in the future of work and opportunities.

Solve Education! Director Talitha Amalia spoke of her experiences working with a philanthropy organisation which focuses on helping children and youth around the globe to receive effective and fun education. She emphasised that digital skills are available in a spectrum from basic to advanced. Hence, there is a need for a creative but careful approach in delivering necessary digital education, especially for the younger generation.

ERIA Strategy and Partnership Director Giulia Ajmone Marsan gave insights into ASEAN's fast-changing digital transformation landscape. In her view, while there is a great opportunity for the region to focus digital skilling in advanced aspects such as AI or cloud

computing, there should also be a focus on developing basic digital skills for small and medium-sized enterprises or entrepreneurs, who are the main drivers of the region’s economic activities. She also pointed out the challenges of emerging cutting-edge technology, which can result in a growing digital divide and widen the economic gap between rural and urban areas.

Generation's Chief Executive Officer, Asia-Pacific Jeremy Fox spoke of the importance of providing experiential learning courses and digital skills training to increase the job readiness of young professionals. Soft skills such as agility, critical thinking and a growth mindset are the main factors to sustain a competitive and productive workforce. The rapid growth of technology has also served as a leap-frog opportunity for people to get into the entry-level of work without having to obtain experience in formal education.

AWS APAC Regional Director, Global Education-Skills to Job Shang Gao moderated the session, and, during the Q&A, the speakers discussed the importance of making digital skills accessible, especially for vulnerable groups and disadvantaged communities, as well as strategising ways to balance the use of digital tools for GenZ and young professionals.

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