Equipping the Future-ready Citizen & Enabling the Digital Makers of ASEAN’s Digital Economy: Key Takeaways from AIBP Insights

In the 2021/22 AIBP ASEAN Enterprise Innovation Market Overview, we found that one of the top 5 challenges to digital transformation among ASEAN markets in 2021 was the lack of talent and expertise to execute digital transformation roadmaps.

We explore how government agencies, institutes of education and talent upskilling programs are evolving to keep up with developments in the digital economy, and preparing the ASEAN talent for the digitalised future, addressing key themes around:

  • What matters for the ASEAN workforce today – concerted efforts for the paradigm shift in education
  • Changing pedagogy for the digital world

What matters for the ASEAN workforce today – Concerted efforts for the paradigm shift in education

With the rise of a skills-based economy where technology will replace many routine, repetitive tasks, there was a general consensus among the panel that skills (both hard and soft) are what matters for the ASEAN workforce today. 

From the perspective of upskilling the workforce, ET Tan, CEO, Penang Skills Development Centre (PSDC), highlighted that there is no alternative to skills for the large part of the workforce supporting the industry, and PSDC seeks to equip the workforce with the necessary skills. He observed that there appears to be an overemphasis on paper qualifications, which does not equate to skill or expertise. On the flipside, some may have the capability, but lack the paper qualifications. 

In a similar vein, Rutchanee Gullayanon (Dr. Ler) , Executive Vice President for Research and Innovation, King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang, brought up how evaluating a student’s competence beyond the grade point average (GPA) is not a comprehensive gauge of competence. Joh Liang Hee, CTO & SVP, Sing-Ed Global Schoolhouse, also shared how universities in Singapore are incorporating discretionary admissions that consider applicant skill sets as well.

Dr. Ler raised the idea of evaluating students in a different way, and mapping the university curriculum with skills that the industry requires. Alicia Carol White, Senior Lecturer, School of Business, INTI, also shared how the faculty’s industry-specific advisory boards comprising industry stakeholders will guide their course curriculum. Dr. Athitaya Nitchot, Former Associate Dean, Prince of Songkla University International College, aso shared how a prototype was built to enable the mapping of learning modules to the overall curriculum. 

In delivering relevant courses for students, Dr. Thinagaran Perumal, Department of Computer Science, Universiti Putra Malaysia, brought up how a special academic unit for microcredential and open courses was set up to drive the future classroom catered to the required skill sets.

As education concerns the development of a future-ready citizen, public-private partnerships and cross-sector cooperation may  involve government agencies, education institutions and providers, as well as industry players, to accelerate transformation in the sector. These partnerships take various forms – in funding, technology adoption, as well as in curriculum and program design. 

To this, Dr. Nol Chindapol, Country Director, Qualcomm, shared how the integration of devices and platforms, along with technologies like edge and cloud computing, and AI, may enable longer-term student profiling to gain an understanding of their behaviour and potentially provide suggestions for improvements.

Developing skill sets begins from young. In addition to looking beyond grades and subjects for K-12 education, Timothy (Tim) Lovatt, Head of Digital Learning, UWC Southeast Asia, is exploring how it aligns with nurturing the student’s interests. More importantly, both Tim and Joh highlighted the importance of encouraging learning agility and building a versatile mindset in developing students.

The right mindset will transcend constantly changing trends in digitalisation and technology-adoption. As ET puts it, this will require structural changes in our head – the question to address lies in how humans are adapting to keep up with developments in technology. Similarly, Syahrul Nizam Junaini, Faculty of Computer Science and Information Technology, UNIMAS, underlined the need for entrepreneurial skills and a design-thinking mindset in order to make full use of the digital tools available today.

Changing pedagogy for the digital world

As both requirements of education evolve with changing workforce needs, technology has come to play a key role in both education delivery and education outcomes.

Joh brought up the importance of taking ownership for learning and building innovation ecosystems across the region to enable cross country collaboration. Similarly at UWCSEA, Tim shared the difficulties faced in transitioning from the traditional classroom to one with digital solutions. He believes that a blended learning model will be the way forward, and the pandemic has presented an opportunity for changes in learning.

These changes are achieved not without difficulty. Teachers must be equipped and prepared as well.  

A key supporting tool for collaborative learning is the online learning platform. Natasak Rodjanapiches, Vice Chairman, Creative Digital Economy, Board Of Trade of Thailand; Senior Advisor, Elernity (Thailand), shared how initiating teachers to an adequate level of proficiency may be met with resistance in the initial stages, but positive outcomes for students will alleviate their misgivings. This was also observed at the tertiary education level, as Dr Thina shared how a paradigm shift was observed following the COVID-19 pandemic, where students and lecturers have come to appreciate the flexibility offered by online learning.

There was also a consensus that varied approaches for learning result in positive outcomes for student participation as they display more proactive, positive attitudes towards learning. 

Patrick Tsie, Senior Director, Technical Marketing, Qualcomm, also brought up how an education-as-a-service IoT platform will transform the classroom into a digital, hybrid setup by incorporating software into hardware. Noel Tinoco, Marketing Manager, IPEVO, thinks that by first considering technology and skill set availability, the transition towards more advanced education models will be smoother. 

To close off, Syahrul provided a timely reminder that the future may be technology-powered, but will still be human-centred, to which Carol added that we will have to sharpen complementary skills that computers cannot replace. 

With this, we conclude our series for AIBP Insights: Future-proofed Public Services. Visit for latest updates on activities and resources ASEAN’s digitalisation landscape. 


21 April 2022