“We are going through a digital transformation and it is up to us to decide what role we want to play in the new digitised world.” Daniel Ng, Senior Director for APAC at Cloudera.
As successive federal governments in Australia acknowledge the need to upskill the workforce with initiatives such as restoring the focus on STEM in schools and the allocation of federal budget to the Primary Connections and Science by Doing programs, there is a clear message that Australia should be striving to become a Smart Nation. Just as future workforces need to improve skills and redirect focus onto the core technical elements of education, another major part of this drive involves citizens and how technology can be leveraged to improve our lives.
Essentially, this means that businesses and the community as a whole will be encouraged to contribute and join the drive towards technical innovation. At the same time, the National Broadband Network (NBN) should bring faster connectivity and better delivery of services to the public and private sectors.
Meanwhile, other initiatives in our region such as The ASEAN ICT Masterplan 2020 which is aimed at driving towards a more digitally enabled economy for the Southeast Asia region[i] and Singapore’s Infocomm Media 2025 which is designed to tap on info-comm media to enhance people’s lives[ii], are beginning to pick up speed. In an era where better services and business conditions are driving innovation and big money to Australia, it is important that we can keep pace with our neighbours.
A Digitised Economy (and World)
Let us take a step back and see how technology has already changed our lives. For starters, with technology, we can now stay connected to our friends and family no matter where they are. People used to send telegrams that took days or weeks to reach someone, and now we have emails that can be read by someone across the globe almost instantaneously. With the Internet, we can get information about almost anything or anyone, literally at our fingertips when we want it.
These days, just about every gadget – from your child’s toy car to the refrigerator in the kitchen – can be connected to the Internet. Analysts predict that the world will see 25 billion Internet-connected things by 2020 as the Internet of Things trend continues to gain momentum.
All these will have a great impact on the economy as businesses change their business models to adapt to digitisation[iii]. Soon, it will be inevitable for businesses to take the digital transformation seriously if they want to maintain their competitive advantage.
Increasingly, machines are being used to enhance efficiency and drive productivity in industries like manufacturing, financial services, and healthcare. Most amazingly, technology is being actively tapped on to improve our quality of lives. One example I love is how we now can know that the 80-year-old grandmother who lives alone is healthy and well at all times, and be alerted when she needs assistance without being physically there monitoring her all the time. The answer? A connected device that she wears constantly sends signals, reports on her well-being, and intelligently calls for help when there is an emergency.
Of course, all of this is just a glimpse of the potential that data and technology can bring and how they can positively impact our lives. As industries and entire cities become smarter, people’s lives are going to transform accordingly.
Data Skills as the Real Competitive Advantage
While the use of data and technology for businesses has grown quickly and universally, the Asia Pacific region is still behind the curve in terms of skilling up workers for the new economy and world.
In Australia, a 2015 federal government report[iv] predicts that employment is projected to increase in 16 of the 19 broad industry sectors over the next five years till November 2020, with Professional, Scientific and Technical Services (151,200), coming in as the second largest field. This will increase emphasis on jobs that involve cybersecurity, data analytics, and application development.
However, analysts have identified that the lack of talent with data skills is one of the biggest obstacles for organisations in Asia Pacific[v].
This gap clearly needs to be filled as businesses and governments realise that data or technology skills is now where the real competitive advantage lies. Just like how all the ‘Smarter World’ initiatives have begun from the top (with support from governments and business leaders jumping on the bandwagon), our leaders are also recognising and implementing programs that will help the workforce of the future acquire these desirable skills.
Other countries in the APAC region continue to push on with transformation of the workforce, so Australia is very much in a race to improve and upskill, and continue the drive towards a smarter economy.
For example, the Singapore government recently pushed out a SkillsFuture movement where citizens are provided with opportunities to develop their fullest potential regardless of which life stage they are at – students, new to the workforce, at mid-career, or retired. The aim is for people to gain skills and ultimately drive Singapore’s next phase of development towards an advanced economy and inclusive society[vi]. The movement will also help people gain the necessary Infocomm Technology (ICT) skills to enhance industries contributing to Singapore’s economic and social growth[vii].
A Holistic Approach to a Smarter Everything
With the digitalisation of essentially everything, the ability to make smarter decisions and take data-driven action will become a necessity for everyone, no matter if you are in the public or private sector.
Besides adjusting classroom curriculums and making sure that students and workers get the necessary training and are more technologically-enabled, the movement will also require governments and academic institutions to work together with relevant industry players. This means placing students entering the industry into the right roles. It means the entire ecosystem needs to work in unison.
As part of a connected ecosystem, academic and training institutions will be able to quickly fine tune their curriculum and training syllabus according to demands in the industries. Students will learn relevant skills that are in demand, and academics and industry players will be able to plan ahead and mitigate any labour shortages.
Success of such a collaborative ecosystem will depend heavily on the level of involvement and integration of each player. Educators and industry leaders will need to collaborate on an ongoing basis. Even more important is that citizens will need to keep up, embrace lifelong learning, and help each other be prepared so that we can all be ready for a more intelligent world.
- [i] The ASEAN ICT Masterplan 2020, Association of Southeast Asian Nations
- [ii] INFOCOMM MEDIA 2025, Ministry of Communications and Information
- [iii] The Internet of Things Is a Revolution Waiting to Happen, Gartner, 30 April 2015
- [iv] 2015 federal government report, Australian Government, Department of Employment, 2015-2016
- [v] IDC predicts data-driven organizations to achieve extra USD65 billion in productivity benefits by 2020, IDC, 18 January 2016
- [vi] What Is SkillsFuture?, SkillsFuture
- [vii] FACTSHEET ON SKILLSFUTURE EARN AND LEARN PROGRAMME FOR SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT, SkillsFuture