Digitalisation is sweeping across the world, soaking into every groove of our society and work. But rather than a natural phenomenon that occurred seemingly unprompted, it is a process painstakingly created by the people – without whom, digitalisation would grind to an abrupt halt.

It is this need for digital talents that brought together industry players, academics and government officials at the Asia Pacific Digital Talent Summit, held during Huawei’s annual flagship event Huawei Connect in Bangkok, Thailand.

The Summit, which happened on 19 September, explored how countries across the Asia-Pacific region are cultivating tech talents and explained how Chinese tech giant Huawei is working with different stakeholders to achieve this goal.

A shortage of digital talents

Asia Pacific is the world’s fastest growing digital economy, says Jun Zhang, Vice President of Huawei Asia Pacific in an exclusive interview with GovInsider during the flagship event. But this rapid digitalisation is hampered by a massive talent shortage.

A report by management consulting firm Korn Ferry highlighted that there will be a talent shortage of 2 million workers globally in the technology, media and telecommunications industry by 2030. Another survey by big four accountancy firm PwC highlighted that 50 per cent of CEOs in the region find it difficult to hire digital talents with suitable skills.

“The demand is very huge and the supply is really short,” Jun adds. This is a problem experienced even by the Chinese tech giant itself, with Jun expressing that it’s “not so easy to find so many proper candidates”.

It’s not just the tech industry that is in short supply of tech-savvy talents. Every other industry that has digitalised too will need these individuals. From the healthcare sector to traditional industries like mining – technology has now become essential to many of these workplaces.

“The industry is digitalised,” he explains. “If you don’t want to fall behind, then you need to understand how to utilise technology in your industry.”

In light of this talent shortage, Jun believes that tech players like Huawei have a duty to enable and nurture these tech talents. The Asia-Pacific demographic represents immense potential for talent cultivation, as it is home to 60 per cent of the global youth population – about 1.1 billion young people.

“Our young talents have been and will be playing a critical role in the region’s and the world’s economic development,” Jun says.

To this end, the Chinese tech giant has developed numerous initiatives to support this mission.

A tech giant’s role in nurturing youths

Huawei’s talent strategy in the region is founded upon collaboration – working with policy makers, ICT practitioners and developers, as well as youths to develop leadership skills and industry knowledge.

One way they do so is through the ICT Academy, a programme developed in partnership with local universities across the Asia-Pacific. The ICT Academy delivers courses on different types of emerging technologies like 5G, AI and cloud computing. These courses seek to equip students with an understanding of how the technology works, and how they can be applied in their respective industries.

As part of the ICT Academy, Huawei also hosts an ICT Competition for youths. This competition comprises different categories such as innovation, digital inclusion, as well as practice – assessing students’ technical knowhow and ability to apply ICTs to resolve real-world problems.

The Competition also serves as a way to garner society’s attention, and get more individuals interested in the digital economy, Jun says. Through these avenues, the ICT Academy has worked with 300 academic institutions and trained more than 50,000 students in Asia-Pacific thus far.

Another key initiative by Huawei is its Seeds for the Future programme, which was first incepted in 2008, in Thailand. This programme brings together young global talents from top universities through a free exchange program, during which they explore advanced ICT, work in a cross-cultural team, and hone their leadership and communication skills.

Beyond nurturing tech talents, the programme also introduces an element of social action through Huawei’s Tech4Good global competition. This year’s competition saw 120 students across 16 countries in the region working together to develop and propose technical solutions to address social problems for the betterment of society.

One project arising from it was titled ‘N-ABLE’, introduced by an ASEAN Foundation delegation. The team behind it hoped to develop an inclusive platform that provides special needs individuals with a job through personalised consultations, job match-making and training.

As of the end of 2021, Seeds for the Future has been implemented across 18 countries, benefitting thousands of students in the Asia Pacific.

Training government officials

As a giant in the ICT industry, Huawei plays an important role of cultivating digital talents both in the next generation and in today’s government ranks. Image: Canva

Besides the youths, Huawei is also actively involved in upskilling the existing workforce. They do so through their ASEAN Academy, which provides training in three different areas of leadership, knowledge, and skills. At the moment, it has been established in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, and seeks to “foster a talent ecosystem that empowers growth of local ICT talent and enhances digital productivity,” Jun says.

Numerous programmes are available to cater for different demographics. Policymakers, for instance, could attend the Business Institute, which provides ICT leadership training on emerging ICT technologies and industry trends. So far, the programme has trained over 17,000 local government officials across the three countries.

Meanwhile, ICT practitioners and developers can attend the Technical Institute instead. Unlike the leadership institute, this focuses on developing key technical skills required in the market. To date, it has trained almost 120,000 ICT professionals and equipped them with advanced ICT skills.

But the work is not quite done. The tech giant is keen on “moving faster” to train more of such talents in the region. Worldwide, the tech giant has pledged to invest US$150 million by 2026, potentially benefiting more than 3 million people.

As part of their five-year talent strategy (which started in 2021), Huawei is committed to cultivating 500,000 additional talents through initiatives like the ICT Academy, Seeds for the future, and ASEAN Academy in Asia Pacific.

“We believe in the power of technology, innovation, and most importantly, the power of people,” says Jun. It is with this in mind that the tech giant continues to invest in people, raising a new generation of tech talents that will propel the digital economy forward in time to come.