When Malaysia re-envisioned its digital nation goals in February with the launch of a 10-year digital economy blueprint – MyDIGITAL, industry leaders welcomed the aims while pointing to aspects that needed particular attention.
One of the essential drivers of a technologically advanced nation is digital talent, which remains a global challenge, and needs to be addressed by a sustained collaborative effort, said various local players at the time.
Recently, Malaysia’s non-partisan think tank SERI (Social & Economic Research initiative), together with the government’s Strategic Change Management Office (SCMO) of the Economic Planning Unit (EPU), released a survey during a jointly organised forum on digital talent in Malaysia.
The Digital Talent forum was a follow-up to the MyDIGITAL Alliance Leadership Council – a multi-stakeholder platform developed by the EPU, SERI and Microsoft to support the Government’s MyDIGITAL aspirations.
One of the forum’s themes was that the government and private sector agree that greater collaboration was “imperative in building a steady pool of digital talents to support the national digital transformation agenda under the MyDIGITAL aspiration”.
SCMO is a government arm entrusted to ensure the delivery of initiatives under the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint and the National 4IR Policy, headed by Fabian Bigar, SCMO’s chief executive officer.
His opening remarks stressed the “importance of the government, private sector, academia and all relevant stakeholders to move in tandem to create a constructive synergy in accelerating digital talent development.”
“Building on the MyDigital Alliance in partnership with the EPU and SERI, Microsoft values the partnership with the SCMO in this Digital Talent Forum,” commented K. Raman, managing director, Microsoft Malaysia.
“A key commitment outlined under our Bersama Malaysia initiative is to equip our nation’s talent with the skills needed to thrive in the digital economy. We are encouraged by the Government’s continuous collaboration with the industry to accelerate capacity building and groom a resilient and competitive digital workforce for the future.”
The Digital Talent Survey involved 70 respondents across Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and large companies, representing various sectors. About 46% of the companies were from the technology sector, 13% from the Financial & Insurance sector, and 7% from both Healthcare and Professional Services industries.
Key findings from the survey include:
- Respondents identified the top two barriers to having sufficient digital talent: skills gaps in the local labour market and inability to attract specialised talent.
- Big Data Analytics and Digital Marketing were the digital skills most sought after by employers, followed by Artificial Intelligence, Data Science, Cybersecurity, and Cloud Computing.
- Critical thinking and analysis, analytical thinking and innovation, and collaboration topped the list of soft skills, followed by English proficiency and communication.
- On average, only 4.8% of respondents felt that the existing labour market fully meets their digital talent needs.
- According to survey respondents, the following are the tech roles that tend to remain vacant for more than three months: Big Data Analytics, Data Science, Cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence, Cloud Computing.
Short term measures
Speaking later to Disruptive.Asia, Microsoft Malaysia’s K Raman said, “Talent is the most vital aspect of any business looking to adopt new technologies. This is why Microsoft has been actively working on several initiatives and collaborations, globally and locally, to upskill the workforce as we enter a new era of work.”
“But bridging the skills gap is not easy – and in many cases, businesses are unable to prepare their workforce in time for the technology being adopted.”
Raman’s advice for the immediate term included comments that: “In these cases, we encourage business to work closely with their solution providers to provide short term support, which includes training and upskilling.”
“As an example, when organisations look to leverage Microsoft Azure, we would connect them with our partner ecosystem to not only support with the installation and data migration process but also provide technical expertise and training to ensure the organisation is fully equipped to run on their own when the time is right.”
“In short, organisations should continuously collaborate with solution providers beyond the installation to innovation to fully benefit from the technology being leveraged.”
In an earlier comment in February, he had said, “People are the most important renewable resource that we must continue to invest in, especially job seekers who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.
Industry and government must forge closer ties to drive digital talent, said Dr Helmy Haja Mydin, chief executive officer of SERI, during the forum.
“As we educate our children for jobs which have not come into existence, this fast-evolving landscape brings challenges and opportunities, resulting in apprehension or excitement, depending on who you speak to,” he said.
“We must not lose focus on those who may not have the means or access to upskill, re-skill, or cross-skill. A global digital workforce, gig workers included, will need to meet the rigorous demands of the future of work.”
Dr Helmy concluded: “It is vital that we come together with clarity and commitment to strengthen and further existing initiatives to ensure everyone, wherever they are in Malaysia, are able to grow up or grow further with skills and opportunities.”