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Huawei and the ASEAN Foundation signed an MoU to jointly bridge a digital talent gap through the ASEAN Seeds for the Future program. Held on 3 November 2021, the Asia Pacific Innovation Day – Digital Talent Summit 2021 was an online summit where policy-makers, researchers and industry experts convened to discuss best approaches to build a digital talent ecosystem in the region.

Jointly, the partnership between the ASEAN Foundation and Huawei aims to expand the digital training footprint in the region. To be launched in 2022, the ‘ASEAN Seeds for the Future’ is a scaled-up version of ‘Seeds for the Future’, a global CSR flagship initiative undertaken by Huawei to provide world-class digital skills training to youth in 131 countries and regions. Since its inception in 2008, the program has benefitted about 9,000 students from over 500 universities.

The ceremony was attended by executive director of ASEAN Foundation Dr. Yang Mee Eng; vice president of Huawei Indonesia Albert Yang; and witnessed by permanent representative of the Kingdom of Cambodia to ASEAN H.E. Amb. Yeap Samnang; deputy secretary-general of ASEAN for ASEAN political security community H.E. Robert Matheus Michael Tene; deputy permanent representative of the Philippines to ASEAN Elizabeth Te; deputy permanent representative of republic of Singapore to ASEAN Tham Borg Tsien; and Huawei Asia Pacific vice president Jay Chen.

“Our partnership with Huawei signifies another important milestone for ASEAN in regards to bringing in committed partners from the private sector to contribute to youth development effort in ASEAN,” said executive director of ASEAN Foundation Dr. Yang Mee Eng.

This marks the ASEAN Foundation’s first partnership with the private sector to lay a solid digital foundation as countries embrace digitalization. Through the ‘ASEAN Seeds for the Future’, the ASEAN Foundation collaborates with Huawei to design custom needs for the region. For instance, nearly half of the program’s participants will be female to address a prevailing gender gap in the region. Yang highlighted that the program is also designed to address rural-urban and infrastructure gaps to elevate digital readiness of societies.

“Access to education is vital to create opportunities and support sustainable development. Our cooperation will contribute to achieving the objectives of ASEAN Digital Masterplan 2025, which aims to increase the capacity of youth in the region to participate in the digital economy and to create a digitally inclusive society in the region,” said Jay Chen, vice president at Huawei Asia Pacific.

Huawei to invest $50 million to develop 500,000 digital talents

Stressing the need for ASEAN to build an ICT talent-based ecosystem to help countries take the digital leap, Jeffrey Liu, president of Huawei Asia Pacific also announced that Huawei will invest $50 million in the next 5 years to develop 500,000 digital talents in the Asia Pacific region.

The online summit was also attended by government officials including deputy secretary-general of ASEAN for ASEAN political security community H.E. Robert Matheus Michael Tene; chair of the ASEAN digital senior official meeting H.E. Dato’ Sri Mohammad Mentek; the minister of posts and telecommunications of Cambodia H.E. Dr. Chea Vandeth; chief of presidential staff of the republic of Indonesia H.E. General TNI (Purn) Dr. Moeldoko; minister of youth and sports of Sri Lanka Hon. Namal Rajapaksa; Philippine ambassador to China H.E. Jose Santiago L. Sta. Romana; and permanent secretary of Thailand ministry of higher education, science, research, and innovation H.E. Prof. Sirirurg Songsivilai, M.D., Ph.D.

In their keynote speeches, they reinforced the importance of building a digitally-savvy human capital to bolster socioeconomic development and lauded Huawei’s ongoing commitment and investment in creating a robust digital future.

Key insights into fostering digital talent in the region were also released in Huawei’s white paper titled “2022 Asia Pacific Digital Talent Insights”. In his presentation, Alex Lee, senior consultant for national digital talent development, shared recommendations in the white paper for sustaining digital talent development and a call to action for wide-scale digital upskilling between industry, academic, and government policy-makers to bring the region forward.

In a virtual roundtable discussion, speakers engaged in a vibrant exchange on key insights and challenges regarding digital talent in sustainable development. The speakers included Dr. Syed Ismail Shah, ITU area representative for Southeast Asia and other Members States in Asia and the Pacific; Puji Pujiono, senior advisor for coordination in the ITU Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific; Gokhan Ogut, CEO of Maxis; Mohamed Djelid, director of UNESCO regional science bureau for Asia and the Pacific; and Dr. Vu Minh Khuong, associate professor at the Lee Huan Yew school of public policy, National University of Singapore.

Sharing his thoughts during the discussion, Dr. Vu said, “Throughout history, talent has been the principal driver of global development. In my view, the following three types of talent are particularly relevant in the digital age: first, the talent to achieve breakthroughs that challenge the status quo; secondly, the talent to engineer and foster synergies; and lastly, the talent to create the future through transformative innovations. I appreciate Huawei's talent white paper to expand the insights for future-oriented talent cultivation.”

Mohamed Djelid, Director of UNESCO Regional Science Bureau for Asia and the Pacific and Representatives said, “The pandemic should be an opportunity to push and motivate all partners, including the private sector like Huawei and multilateral organizations, to invest in digital infrastructure to address the gaps in infrastructure and socioeconomic factors. Furthermore, the approach has to be comprehensive and not just focus on a specific area in order to create long-term, sustainable solutions.”

"The Digital Talent Summit 2021, which aims to discuss and address the needs of ASEAN ICT youth talent, is obviously very relevant, especially in the midst of the global pandemic which forced us to significantly rely more on digital platform. This auspicious event is very much aligned with the ASEAN Digital Masterplan 2025 objective of improving people's capability to participate in the digital society economy. Therefore, allow me to commend ASEAN Foundation and Huawei for this initiative." said the Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for ASEAN Political Security Community H.E. Robert Matheus Michael Tene.

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