Big tech helping to bridge the digital divide in Asia
While the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation, it has also exposed the digital divide that exists in society today, a divide that is particularly acute across Southeast Asia.
LinkedIn has found that the top three fastest growing job categories in Southeast Asia for 2021 are digital content, data analyst, and software technology. And according to an AWS report between 666 million and 819 million workers in Asia-Pacific will use digital skills by 2025, up from just 149 million today, with the average employee requiring seven new digital skills in order to keep pace with emerging tech and technological advancements.
According to Ben King, Country Director, Google Singapore, the “pandemic has only accelerated our shift towards a world that is more digital” with digital marketing and cloud technology skill sets that are “now highly in demand, and this demand will continue to increase in the long run.”
The bottom line is that businesses across Southeast Asia are likely to face severe talent shortage, if they do not beef up digital reskilling of their workforces.
Tech companies working with governments
But who’s responsibility is this? The issue of how to share the costs of upskilling has not yet been solved, according to PwC’s Upskilling for Shared Prosperity report. And while there is unlikely to be an optimal one-size-fits-all approach to funding national upskilling initiatives, policies such as Singapore’s SkillsFuture may hold lessons for others.
What is clear however, is that to achieve widespread upskilling at a fast enough pace, the public and private sectors must work together, and the big tech companies must work with governments to help build digital skills and drive economy recovery.
According to Ahmed Mazhari, President, Microsoft Asia, “no single entity can thrive in isolation”, which is why private enterprises, employers, governments, and non-profits must collaborate and work across sectors to foster partnerships and solutions that will have lasting impact.
“Investment from both the public and private sectors, led by big tech, creates opportunities for startups and small enterprises and those they employ,” explains Mazhair, who argues that tech leaders have a “responsibility to help people acquire these digital skills, for their own benefit and to future-proof Asia’s competitiveness”.
So, which companies are partnering with the public sector in Asia to help narrow the digital divide?
- Microsoft Over the past year, Microsoft and LinkedIn’s global skills initiative has helped more than 30 million people in 249 countries/territories gain access to digital skills, including nearly six million in Asia. And as part of the next phase of this, the tech giant is committed to now helping 250,000 companies to make skills-based hires in 2021. “There will be an estimated 149 million new technology-oriented jobs globally over the next five years, so closing the skills gap for job seekers to grasp these opportunities is absolutely vital,” adds Mazhari.
- Facebook Back in March, the tech giant unveiled a new initiative in Singapore, with the aim of supporting the city-state’s journey towards becoming a smart nation. Titled Upskill with Facebook Singapore, the initiative offers four programmes, for up to 2,700 participants and 1,000 SMEs, that have been curated by Facebook in partnership with technology trade association SGTech.
- Google In summer last year, Google collaborated with Singapore’s Economic Development Board and the country’s SkillsFuture SG programme to unveil the Skills Ignition SG, a 9-month place and train programme for up to 600 applicants, providing job opportunities for Singaporeans in Google, as well as its ecosystem of hires, including startups and SMEs. And subsequently, with a focus on closing the digital gap for 200,000 micro, small and medium business owners in Southeast Asia, The Asia Foundation is being support by Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org, to provide digital literacy training through the Go Digital ASEAN regional initiative. As of April 30, it had trained 3,385 jobseekers and entrepreneurs in the Philippines alone.
- AWS Amazon Web Services announced late last year that by 2025 it would help 29 million people grow their technical skills. To do this, it is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to provide free cloud computing skills training to “people from all walks of life and all levels of knowledge” and in more than “200 countries and territories”, says Teresa Carlson, Vice President of Worldwide Public Sector at Amazon. To date, via AWS Training and Certification, Amazon offers 500 free on-demand digital courses, with 50 launched last year, and available in multiple languages such as Bahasa Indonesia, Japanese, Korean, Simplified and Traditional Chinese.
5 Ways Leaders Can Create a Healthy Workplace Culture
This week (14th-20th June 2021) is Men’s Health Week. Physical and mental well-being have been important considerations for leaders over the past year, and it is essential this focus is maintained as we build back for the future. Here we have asked 5 experts for practical tips leaders can implement to create healthy workplace cultures.
Know the early signs of burnout
Recently it was reported by the BBC that burnout for health and social care staff had reached emergency levels.
Monkey Puzzle Training Co-Founder Karen Meager has studied the burnout recovery process in partnership with Coventry University: “The past year has seen people suffer from job-loss worries, work from home challenges, isolation, and feeling overworked. These are continuing, and all have the potential to contribute towards burnout. Healthcare workers, executives, leaders, managers and small business owners will continue to be the top people to suffer from extreme burnout.”
“At the onset of burnout, people commonly enter a phase of denial. So leaders need to be aware of those who are reluctant to take their time off, are compelled to work all hours, or have changes in their behaviour or mood, as these can all be indications of burnout taking hold. Encouraging them to take a burnout self-test provides a starting point to supporting these employees through recovery, as is role modelling healthy sustainable ways of working.” Karen suggests.
Encourage professional self-reflection
Creating an environment that encourages self-reflection is an effective tool for promoting personal development. Journaling may not be something you instantly think of for professional development; however, it is a successful technique for adults to aid mindfulness and productivity. “Journaling is a form of self-expression that can empower you to understand your feelings and ambitions and how to deal with them, therefore promoting positive well-being and a healthy workplace culture,” describes Elisa Nardi, founder of Notebook Mentor.
“Just 15-20 minutes of journaling a day over the course of four months are enough to lessen the impact of physical stressors on your health,” explains Elisa. “It can also inspire creativity, aid your memory, and help set actionable goals. It is an underused tool that can help employees manage tricky workplace situations such as conflict, illness or new leadership roles.”
Manage your stress and resilience too
As a leader or manager, often, your complete focus is on the business or protecting your team, but you cannot pour from an empty cup. Leaders should also have strategies in place to manage their own stress, so they can sustain high levels of positive energy throughout the day. “Fueled by a burning desire for success, I ignored all the warning signs of exhaustion, which eventually took its toll on me - I literally collapsed from stress, and I didn’t even see it coming.” reflects Sascha Heinemann, an expert in Performance Recovery and Stress Resilience.
“When leaders manage their energy, create healthy daily habits, and practice resilience, they are able to perform to their fullest capacity and to provide the best possible support for others.”
“Taking a break every 90 minutes or so helps you to refuel, recharge, and re-energize and ultimately allows you to get more accomplished, in less time, at a higher level of quality, and more sustainably. This role model contributes dramatically to a healthier, more engaged, sustainable, and productive workplace culture," he adds.
Instil a sense of purpose for your team
The idea that success equals working 12-15 hour days and giving everything of yourself to your workplace continues to prevail in many organisations. This is not healthy, nor is it productive for anyone involved. “The healthiest and happiest workplace cultures are the ones that are organised around purpose.” describes business and life coach Anand Kulkarni.
“Leaders should be giving meaning to the work they are doing within their business and beyond and sharing this purpose with their staff, rather than focusing on long hours, crippling workloads or someone else’s idea of ‘success’. When people understand why they are doing what they do and how this contributes to something greater, productivity and well-being is increased.” adds Anand.
Promote well-being from the top down
Leaders need to act as role models if well-being is to become embedded at the very core of the organisation. It’s very unlikely that employees will start acting in a new way that puts their own needs first if the leadership team continues to behave in an entirely different manner.
‘Many organisations have worked hard in recent months to put new policies in place that better support well-being, promote hybrid working and attempt to set clear boundaries, but many leaders seem to assume that they are exempt from it all, that’s when it all falls over’, explains leadership experts Martin Boroson and Carmel Moore, from The One Moment Company.
A recent ONS report into Homeworking in the UK revealed that people are on average working 6 hours extra per week, and many are working until late in the evening, indicating that the boundaries between work and life are more blurred than ever.
“Despite all of these wonderful opportunities for people to self-organise, if the leadership team continues to work in the office Monday to Friday, or are communicating at all hours, then it’s a clear indicator that hybrid working is simply a ‘bolt-on’ tactic rather than an integral part of the company’s approach to promoting the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance.’