Middle East: Talent development takes flight amid growing digitisation
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Middle East: Talent development takes flight amid growing digitisation

Middle East: Talent development takes flight amid growing digitisation

Advancing the quality and equity of ICT education, as well as preparing individuals for future jobs in a digital economy, is critical to social development


Most countries in the Arab world have now set ambitious goals of transforming their economies through digital innovation in the post-oil era. This continues a proud legacy of scientific advancement, whether in algebra, physics, astronomy, or other domains. These knowledge pursuits have all had a profound influence on the world’s development, and are actually the basis of current ICT development.

Building powerful ICT infrastructure is now a gateway for promoting sustainable growth and prosperity. The construction of ICT infrastructure through technologies like 5G, cloud, AI, and digital power create sustainable and highly reliable networks that are capable of supporting more connected and intelligent industry. The ITU has noted, for example, that in terms of policy and regulatory framework, an increase of 10 per cent of digitisation in the CAF Digital Ecosystem Development Index results in 2.49 per cent growth in GDP per capita in Arab states. In the latest Intelligent World 2030 report, there are also clear directions for how ICT solutions can solve critical challenges to human development over the next decade. Accelerating environment protection and reducing CO2 emissions is just one example that new technologies can help with.

To realise this potential, a robust talent ecosystem is more vital than ever. Advancing the quality and equity of ICT education, as well as preparing individuals for future jobs in a digital economy, is critical to social development.

Breaking down barriers

Although different in scope, there are at least two common denominators across many national development visions and agendas in the Arab world—the role of digitisation, and the empowerment of youth.

These priorities are inextricably linked. For example, one recent report from Arthur D. Little reaffirms that creating a hub for science, research, technology, and digital services in the region will require developing domestic capabilities and increasing funding for science and technology research. These investments are all the more important as 87 per cent of youth in the Arab world today express concern about the quality of education in their country, according to the latest Arab Youth Survey 2021. In PwC’s latest CEO survey, 70 per cent of Middle East CEOs—more than any other region—also believe a skilled, educated, and adaptable workforce is a top business priority, especially when upskilling to utilise AI, robotics, machine learning, and other new technologies.

These priorities have become even more apparent as the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated and elevated telecommunications, e-government, and e-commerce into indispensable tools in our daily lives.

Having worked with 440 colleges and universities in the region and cooperated with more than 20 ministries and commissions in the area of talent development, Huawei has identified clear strategies that can be applied within the Arab world to close the digital talent gap.

To start, skills need to be taught as early as possible in the education cycle. This is because lasting impact can only be achieved by equipping younger generations with the knowledge and tools needed to be competitive in the workplaces of the future. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), for example, cites that digital literacy is now a core fundamental competency for future education.

In parallel, talent development must be an ongoing commitment, even once reaching the workplace. Today, there’s an urgency among regional organisations for talent acquisition and retention. This is because digitisation has created a truly global marketplace for talent. Brilliant talent is in demand everywhere, in all nations. Yet we’ve found that individuals often cite the lack of a proper talent development path as a key driver for switching jobs, especially in the technology sector. Upskilling is thus an essential factor for talent retention in a highly competitive global talent pool.

We must also shift in the way that we approach education, evolving traditional talent development modes. The traditional talent development pipeline consists of government, universities, and industry, each with specific goals and priorities in their own silos. This leaves gaps that are a significant obstacle in supplying businesses with the digital skills to innovate. Technology companies, who typically work with all stakeholders, can help build a bridge between the institutions that fund and produce talent, and the organisations that ultimately need them.

On a similar point, one of the challenges that universities face when aligning skills development with the new digital economy is that their curriculums are often steeped in purely academic goals, and are often quite localised. Although a local perspective is essential, technology trends are now universal. An effective talent development strategy in the Arab world should therefore equip local talent with the skills that are actually needed within modern industry, and which correspond to global digital transformation trends.

In the end, digital transformation promises a world that is healthier, better educated, more prosperous, and more equitable. But to get there will require that we dedicate efforts to improving the skills of people everywhere in the world. This mission will require even greater collaboration between industry, governments, education institutions, and technology companies.

Catherine Chen is the corporate senior vice president and director of the Board at Huawei

Read: How can ICT solution providers help organisations successfully realise digital transformation?

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