‘Digital transformation, always in the forefront’

Azlan Othman

Digital transformation has been at the forefront of the agenda even before the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has sped up the adoption of digital technology and many of these changes could be here for a long haul. This was stated by ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN BAC) Chair and Legislative Council (LegCo) member Yang Berhormat Siti Rozaimeriyanty binti Dato Seri Laila Jasa Haji Abdul Rahman during the launch of Brunei’s legacy project ‘Harnessing Impact with Resilient Employability Digitally’ (HIRED) at the ASEAN Business and Investment Roundtables: Skills for a Digital Age held virtually yesterday.

The roundtables were part of a series of events under the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit 2021.

Yang Berhormat Siti Rozaimeriyanty added, “Technology rapidly changes the landscape of work in the region, leaving us with no choice but to upskill and reskill to adapt and accommodate the changes in the industry skill requirements. This is what the ASEAN-backed legacy project is all about.”

HIRED serves to address unemployment issues and on how ASEAN lags behind in upskilling and reskilling. This is even more critical during the pandemic as we hope to achieve UNN sustainable development goals for quality education, decent work, and economic growth.

The event saw a panel discussion on ‘Future of Work’ – what does the future of work in Southeast Asia look like? How is innovation and business transformation changing how employees operate? What are some of the permanent changes in the workplace caused by COVID-19?

FROM LEFT: ASEAN Business Advisory Council Chair and Legislative Council member Yang Berhormat Siti Rozaimeriyanty binti Dato Seri Laila Jasa Haji Abdul Rahman; and United Kingdom Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Brunei, Myanmar and Thailand and Member of Parliament Mark Garnier. PHOTOS: AZLAN OTHMAN
Panellists during the discussion on ‘Skills for a Digital Age’

It also featured Deputy Secretary-General for ASEAN Economic Community Satvinder Singh’s keynote address, followed by a panel discussion with Google Cloud Regional Director for Southeast Asia Ruma Balasubramanian; Baiduri Bank Deputy Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Manuel Bulens; Brunei LNG Transformation Manager Elizabeth Santanakumar; and Michael Page Asia Pacific Regional Managing Director and Executive Board Director Anthony Thompson. The discussion was moderated by McLarty Associates Senior Advisor Steve Okun.

Satvinder Singh said in digitalisation, there are nearly 70 million new Internet users in ASEAN, making it one of the largest Internet base with close to 400 million users. Although digital adaption has not been fully adopted during this pandemic, which is here to stay and has a long lasting effect to the community.

“Despite all the challenges brought about by the pandemic, our digital journey transformation is on its way and in good momentum. While our economy is recovering, the pandemic has altered the way we work and play.

“The Internet of Things (IoT) data analytics have altered our traditional business models.

“With digital technology adoption, there will be millions of new job creations in Asia and the Pacific. The demand for technology jobs are rising to double digits. There is also fear that these technology advancements and new jobs will take away existing jobs.”

Meanwhile, Manuel Bulens said an online poll conducted by Baiduri Bank last week on 1,000 people regarding remote working showed that 54 per cent of the respondents preferred to work from home rather than from the office, and 41 per cent said they were well-equipped to work from home, with benefits such as spending more time with family, saving car petrol, and enjoying the flexibility of not having to rush to the office.

The challenges were to find the right balance on doing work from home and your actual work as not everyone has the digital space nor help to assist their children who could not go to school during the outbreak. Connectivity issue was also another challenge to work from home.

A panel discussion on ‘Skills for a Digital Age’ was also highlighted – With the changing nature of work, what are the skills gaps in Southeast Asia? How can we best prepare for the changing skills needs across ASEAN? What is the role of education in ensuring a workforce ready for the needs of the industry? What is the role of employers in facilitating lifelong learning?

The event saw a keynote address by the United Kingdom (UK) Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Brunei, Myanmar and Thailand and Member of Parliament (MP) Mark Garnier, who launched the UK-ASEAN BAC Brunei partnership in support of HIRED.

It also saw a panel discussion with Shell Vice President and Board Director of Brunei LNG and Brunei Gas Carriers (BGC) Suzanna Coogan; ASEAN Future Work Force Council Chairman Dato Palaniappan Joseph; Solve Education! CEO and founder Janine Teo; and Pearson Director – International Stakeholder Engagement and UK Skills Partnership Vice Chair Anya Yerokhina, moderated by Asian Development Bank Technology and Innovation Specialist (Social Sectors) Dr Sameer Khatiwada.

“As the UK becomes ASEAN’s newest dialogue partner, I am immensely grateful to Brunei for their support in achieving this milestone. We are not exactly the new kid on the block. We have been partnering with ASEAN since its creation over 50 years ago and our link to the region is centuries old,” said Mark Garnier.

“It is clear that ASEAN values UK education. Before the pandemic, there were over 40,000 ASEAN students studying in the UK and another 125,000 reading UK degree remotely. I am delighted to announce the UK’s support for ASEAN-backed Brunei’s legacy project HIRED. Strong workforce is key to stronger and greater recovery from COVID-19.”

The Roundtable on ‘Skills for a Digital Age’ provided an understanding of the changing nature of the future of work in Southeast Asia and an assessment of the skills gaps in ASEAN across industry. The discussions will also identify how to develop the right skill sets needed for an economy ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and a future with COVID-19.