Insights: Why public-private partnerships are key to ICT talent cultivation in the Middle East
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Insights: Why public-private partnerships are key to ICT talent cultivation in the Middle East

Insights: Why public-private partnerships are key to ICT talent cultivation in the Middle East

In the digital economy landscape, ICT skills are vital to support long-term national economic expansion and diversification plans

Shunli Wang

In our two decades of operations in the Middle East, we have witnessed revolutionary change that has set the region on a path of digital-driven socio-economic transformation. The foundation of this progress has been the region’s talented population, backed by a culture of exploration and innovation. As the region gears up for the next era of development, this knowledge base is more important than ever.

This is because information and communications technology (ICT) technologies continue to develop rapidly as the world becomes more digital, with more than 170 countries releasing their digital strategies. Digital talent is critical in driving digital transformation and advancing the digital economy. But the world faces an acute ICT talent gap, with research forecasting a shortage of more than 10 million ICT professionals worldwide in the next decade. This is why we are working with our regional partners to develop a more robust digital talent ecosystem and drive broader digital inclusion.

We do this through our various ICT development corporate social responsibility programmes, including the highly successful annual Huawei ICT Competition. The 2022 edition of the ICT Competition came to a successful close in December, demonstrating the value of public-private collaboration in nurturing ICT talents and preparing the next generation of ICT leaders. It also shows that governments in the region are keen to cultivate new ICT talent to empower the socio-economic growth led by digital technologies and how such partnerships are vital contributors to their national goals.

An total of 19,300 students from 472 universities and colleges across the region initially took part in this year’s Huawei ICT Competition, undergoing a preliminary competition and training enablement, followed by a national exam held in Huawei’s offices in each participating country. A final 45 national champions then proceeded to the regional finals in Muscat, Oman.

Divided into 15 teams, these talented students, accompanied by their academic advisors, were provided a platform for healthy competition and exchange of ideas, thus enhancing their ICT knowledge and practical skills and increasing their ability to innovate using new technologies and platforms. All our 11 regional markets – Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan, Oman, Lebanon, Pakistan, Iraq, and first-time participants Kazakhstan were represented, showing a region united in pursuit of advanced ICT skills.

Our continued support for ICT talent development programmes is inspired by the impressive ICT talent available locally. Local teams continue to perform with distinction against international teams at our international editions. For example, last year, Salahaddin University in Iraq beat teams from all over the world to win the Innovation Competition Grand Prize at the ICT Competition Global Finals in Shenzhen, China. Teams from Pakistan, Lebanon, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia also received accolades for their innovations.

The 2022 competition participants add to the over 75,000 students across the region who have taken part in Huawei ICT Competition since its launch in 2017. These young people have gone on to pursue successful careers in the ICT field and make a vital contribution to their national social and economic progress.

Similar success has been achieved with our flagship CSR initiative, Seeds for the Future, since its launch in 2008. The programme supports the development of local ICT talent by enhancing international knowledge transfer amongst students, promoting a greater understanding of and interest in the technology field, and encouraging participation in the region’s growing digital economy.

The combination of Seeds for the Future, the Huawei ICT Competition, Huawei ICT Academy, joint innovation centers, labs and our other CSR initiatives empower thousands of Arab youth annually to supercharge their ICT careers, supporting the region’s governments in building sustainable knowledge-based economies. These programmes form the basis of Huawei’s efforts to create an ICT talent ecosystem in the region, a key pillar of digital transformation and taking advantage of revolutionary technologies such as 5G, cloud and artificial intelligence.

All these initiatives prove that collaboration is ideal for tackling the talent gap facing organizations worldwide; universities and governments cannot do it alone, and the value of partnerships with technology firms and businesses is evident. For this year’s ICT Competition, Huawei partnered with 22 ministries, 472 universities and colleges representing 11 countries, and numerous other public and private partners in a showcase of a highly successful collaborative ICT talent development model. Meanwhile, Seeds for the Future has garnered support from the highest echelons of government across the region.

These ICT talent development initiatives have, over the years, tracked innovations in the broader ICT field, demonstrating their relevance. Today, we see demand for courses that fulfill the current need for 4IR technologies such as AI, IoT, and 5G. Rising use cases in our home market of China and elsewhere show how these technologies can drive the regional digital economy.

In the digital economy landscape, ICT skills are vital to support long-term national economic expansion and diversification plans. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) cites digital literacy as a fundamental competency for future education. This calls for a long-term strategy to equip the youth with the capacity to make a difference while contributing to the socio-economic growth of nations.

At Huawei, we believe open collaboration is the best approach to innovation. It will help us cultivate outstanding researchers and future leaders who can build a dynamic and innovative global economy. We, therefore, need to embrace all public-private collaboration opportunities to build a sustainable and inclusive future for all. We will continue to support partners, customers, and countries to help build a fully connected, intelligent world.

Shunli Wang is the vice president of Huawei Middle East and Central Asia

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