Huawei Roundtable Outlines How Digital Talent Is More Important Than Ever Before

The world is moving towards the post-pandemic phase, and a key driver of this slow but steady recovery is digital talent. This was the overriding theme of the roundtable, “Digital Talent as Key to Sustainable Recovery and Development,” which was one of the highlights of the virtual Digital Talent Summit hosted by Huawei last week.

Sharing their insights and expertise in the roundtable were Gokhan Ogut, CEO at Maxis; Mohamed Djelid, Director of UNESCO Regional Science Bureau for Asia and the Pacific and Representative to Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Timor-Leste; Dr Syed Ismail Shah, ITU Area Representative for Southeast Asia and other Member States in Asia and the Pacific; Puji Pujiono, Senior Advisor for Coordination at the ITU Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, and Dr Vu Minh Khuong, Associate Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. Benjamin Loh, Head of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Monitoring Division moderated the hour-long discussion.

Dr Shah and Ogut both highlighted the important role that digital technologies are playing in today’s world, and how they can help in fulfilling all 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outlined by the United Nations. These technologies, Ogut points out, depend greatly on “robust, uninterrupted and reliable connectivity,” that will bridge the digital gap in all countries—something Maxis is trying to ensure in the Asia Pacific region, notably in Malaysia.

This is where digital talent comes in, as those with digital know-how will be best positioned to utilise digital technologies in ways that will help not only in fulfilling the SGDs but also in ushering the world to what will arguably be a more challenging new normal.

“When we speak about digital talent, we need to recognise that even before the pandemic, the gaps are already there—gaps in terms of urban and rural, gender-wise and between countries in ASEAN. The pandemic exaggerated those gaps in a way,” noted Pujiono. “There is demand for different kinds of talent in three accounts: One, to respond to the pandemic; number 2, to promote the new way of living with the pandemic; and number three, in preparing and annotating the recovery onwards.”

Having said that, all four panellists emphasised that nurturing digital talent is not only about them acquiring technical expertise. More than that, it is also about having the right mindset, which is just as crucial for anyone aiming to thrive in a highly digitalised world.

“It goes beyond skills. Skills can be learned,” explained Ogut. “It’s also about the mindset and culture. We dub it as transformational leadership. Talents need to have the mindset to commit to things that are possible. If [talents] know they have that license, [then] it empowers them to deliver what is possible with tech.”

Integral to this forward-thinking mindset, according to Khuong, is challenging the status quo, or being able to rethink the conventional into something more innovative and tech-focused. Kuong, in particular, encouraged individuals to “rethink and not stick to the established solution,”—all while collaborating with like-minded people to bring about positive change and bring transformative innovation to the world at large.

Dr Shah echoed Khuong’s point on the importance of synergy and collaboration, particularly in the ASEAN region, where digital talent from the different countries can augment one another’s workforce depending on the digital skills needed. Corollary, Dr Shah emphasised the need for each country, whether in the ASEAN or in other continents, to cultivate a digital innovation environment that makes it easier for people to either learn about technology or to reskill or upskill whenever and wherever necessary.

Djelid concluded the roundtable by articulating how the best way to nurture digital talent is through a synergistic approach. Meaning, it should be done as part of a multi-pronged program that should include ICT education and infrastructure building, among other things.

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