Upskilling youth can speed up digital transformation
New realities have arisen in the last two years, and new strategies have been adopted by economies around the world to cope with the changed realities. Renewed significance has been attached to digital transformation and equipping the population with the right set of skills to prepare them for the new world has been a priority; and with over 4.6 billion people, the Asia Pacific region has been doing considerably well in terms of digital transformation.
The pandemic has expedited this process by about seven years. As one of the major players in the region, Bangladesh is also doing considerably well as far as digital preparedness is concerned.
And to provide a magnified view of the digital preparedness of countries around the world, Huawei has been reporting a special index called the Global Connectivity Index (GCI) since 2015. The index assesses 40 indicators focusing on broadband, routing, Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence, and groups countries into three clusters: Starters, Adopters, and Frontrunners. The clusters distinguish different levels of connectivity; a country's digital readiness from a national and business perspective depending on the current status, future trends, and challenges associated with digital transformation, and determine different parameters on what they need to work on to become a digital economy.
Beside all of these, the GCI categorically suggests that human resource and skills development are crucial for a country to transform into a digital economy. According to the 2021 World Economic Forum (WEF) report, benefits of upskilling, which the analysis suggests, could provide as much as 6.1 percent boost to GDP by 2030, and this will be facilitated when emerging Asian economies move into higher, value-added sectors that require the most productive use of skills. But on the other hand, according to a study by Korn Ferry, we will face an estimated shortage of 47 million tech talents by 2030. A survey of CEOs by PwC found that more than 50 percent of APAC CEOs say it's difficult to hire digital talent with the right skills.
We cannot deny that the changing world needs young people with new skills that are compatible with the changed realities and perspectives. So, naturally, the demand for young people with such skills will experience an upward trend. And certainly, upskilling a population has a direct impact on its economy and society. For example, Singapore was ranked at the second position in the GCI 2020, with a per capita income of USD 60,000. This has been possible because of the implementation of the Smart Nation Singapore initiative. Similarly, countries like Thailand and Indonesia are reaping the benefits of digitalisation and upskilling-focused policy. In fact, Indonesia has successfully become the largest economy in Southeast Asia, with a GDP of over USD 1.1 trillion with such a policy in place.
It has also been forecasted that industries are also experiencing paradigm shifts, reinforcing the need for skilled people. According to study findings of the 2021 Global Data Market Opportunity Study, IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) will be the fastest growing segment, along with the Asia Pacific region occupying 80 percent of the overall market share by the end of 2024. In such a situation, digital inclusion will drive growth across different industries in the near future. This reality is relevant for Bangladesh as well, where there have been significant changes in the industry landscape in the last few years riding on the huge digital transformation underway in the country.
Bangladesh has been doing well in the fields of Broadband, Internet of Things (IoT), and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in comparison with previous years. However, to meet the future demands of the industry, the ICT industry to be particular, Bangladesh needs a skilled young workforce.
The Bangladesh government has been working diligently to minimise the difference between the demand and supply of talent. We have gladly observed that over the last decade, the government has taken different measures to upskill the youth. Within the scope of the Aspire to Innovate (a2i) project functioning under the ICT Division, the government has introduced several initiatives such as skills development through apprenticeship, skill development through stipend and skills for employment program. Moreover, the government has been setting up 39 high-tech or software technology parks. Government-level initiatives are also underway to set up 31 specialised labs in different universities to upskill the youth. Moreover, around 500 polytechnic institutes have been established in the country in the last 12 years to facilitate the youth with the right skills. All these initiatives are truly commendable.
Well, in consideration of digital talent demand and digital talent supply ratio, Bangladesh has been categorised as a Starter, along with other emerging economies. We have been making steady progress over the years, as signified by an improvement by eight points in the GCI between 2015 and 2020. The country is indeed moving confidently towards the Digital Bangladesh vision.
In order to maintain this positive momentum, continued skill-development efforts specifically targeting the youth i.e. the leaders of tomorrow are of paramount importance. To further expedite effective skill development among the youth, Bangladesh can follow the four basic pillars of talent development: Design, Incentivise, Collaborate and Ecosystem (DICE). First, it needs to make a detailed analysis of the workforce, future needs, and the gap between the needs and supply. Then, make plans for building a talent pipeline and job creation, develop a national plan in partnership with universities and tech giants to address large skill gaps, and finally, lure in the talent pool to inspire others to follow in.
Moreover, there is another way of developing talent, which most countries follow. Bangladesh can also follow that path. The country needs to evaluate the relevancy of its digital education program to find out the gap between industry-specific needs and the things being taught at the universities. Once the gap is addressed, the country will have digital talent ready to be employed. Right then, the role of extensive digital talent policies comes in, which will help the country create employment and other opportunities for young talents.
Along with the government's initiatives, different private organisations have been playing instrumental roles in making the country and its citizens digitally ready to embrace the benefits of digital transformation. To be particular, Huawei has been working very diligently to equip the youth in Bangladesh and the Asia Pacific region with the right ICT skills so that they can lend a hand in long-term growth. To date, Huawei has trained around 19,000 IT professionals in the Asia Pacific. Moreover, in Bangladesh, Huawei has taken multiple initiatives such as ICT Academy, ICT Skills Competition, and Seeds for the Future to develop an ICT talent ecosystem, all of which are bearing fruits for the country's ICT industry.
To be precise, Bangladesh is currently in an advantageous situation as the country could realise the potential of its demographic dividend. According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) and the United Nations Population Division, the demographic window will remain open till 2035 or 2037 for Bangladesh, insinuating that the country will have a greater working population than the ageing population during this timeframe.
Bangladesh needs to take advantage of this situation and continue upskilling its youth. For example, Huawei is ready to help the country in this regard as it plans to train at least 6,000 young people in the next one year. Driven by 'In Bangladesh, For Bangladesh,' Huawei will keep contributing to youth development in this country.
Jason Li is a board member at Huawei Technologies (Bangladesh) Limited