I was in Phnom Penh last month for the World Economic Forum on ASEAN, where I took part in a panel discussion on how digitalisation is transforming the region and the challenges that remain. There were two key takeaways for me from the session.
The first is understanding the new collaboration models that will come into play in the digital world. In this world, it is about creating ecosystems and collaborating with different companies—even competitors—to create value. While there is consensus on the overall direction, a lot more thought needs to be put into what these new models entail and how to make them work. This includes aspects ranging from IP ownership and licensing considerations to new approaches to compliance and regulation.
Governments have an opportunity to build a new type of infrastructure—industry-wide digital platforms that connect all stakeholders of an industry ecosystem for greater productivity and efficiency. Just like how governments build railways and roads to enable trade and economic development, governments can anchor broader multi-sided digital platforms to enable innovation and accelerate economic growth.
Governments must evolve to orchestrate such platform ecosystems. Beyond laying the digital foundations of the platform, governments must use incentives, new approaches to compliance, nimble policymaking to match demand and supply, and let innovation take root. These are different roles and capabilities from what most government agencies are used to.
The second takeaway is the importance of talent and how ASEAN needs to evolve its approach to talent development. Platform ecosystems are about collaboration and experimentation, meaning the ability to clearly articulate ideas, work with individuals of different backgrounds and think in the shoes of the end-user/customer are critical. Technical skills are no longer enough. Education will need to include a lot more team-based project work, collaborations with industry to work on “real problems” as opposed to the current emphasis on content-based learning.
The approach to recruiting talent is changing as we shift focus from university brand name to the actual skill sets job seekers have. For example, at companies such as Google, recruitment processes are more focused on testing capabilities than looking at academic credentials, and one of the world’s most attractive employers does not hesitate to hire talent without formal degrees. With the ever-accelerating pace of change, workers will need to reinvent themselves multiple times over a career. Governments have an important role in encouraging and enabling continuous learning.