Southeast Asia urged to build future skills for digital economy

The Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries need to strengthen collaboration between industry and business to build future skills for the digital economy, according to a new World Bank (WB) report.

The report, “The Digital Economy in Southeast Asia: Strengthening the Foundations for Future Growth”, analyzes the opportunities and challenges facing the region to scale up digital development, and for ensuring the economic and social dividends of technology can reach everyone.

With digital technology transforming almost all sectors of the economy, the report identified building the right skill mix for the digital economy as a long-term challenge.

“Education systems need to equip people with digital skills, as well as the “soft skills” required to adapt to rapid technological change,” it noted.

The report said the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam should implement approaches for lifelong learning through education system given the rate of technological change.

“A focus on lifelong learning will also be needed, with governments and businesses having a shared role in delivering this, rather than working in silos,” it said.

The report further said policymakers need to reconsider traditional approaches to teaching and learning amid the diffusion of digital technologies and digitalization of business processes.

“Workplace demands are changing rapidly, requiring more nimble and adaptable human resources, particularly technical and managerial skills,” it noted.

Apart from the skills of the region’s workforce, the report identified five other main areas of focus for digital development in Southeast Asia, which are the expansion of connectivity, digital payments, a well-functioning logistics sector, regional integration, and effective standards and regulations.

The report found that digital payments adoption is lagging in Southeast Asia compared to other parts of the world.

It said measures that policymakers may consider include strengthening consumer protection to build trust in digital payments; improving cross-sectoral coordination in policymaking and regulation, including standard-setting; strengthening digital ID to facilitate the adoption of digital payments; and promoting electronic payments to and from government, among others.

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