A coalition of major tech companies pledged today to develop digital skills for the ASEAN workforce. The pledge, part of the World Economic Forum’s Digital ASEAN initiative, aims to train by 2020 some 20 million people in South-East Asia, especially those working in small- and medium-size enterprises.
Other goals include raising $2 million in contributions to provide scholarships for ASEAN technology students, ensuring an additional 200,000 digital workers are hired across the region, and engaging at least 20,000 citizens through “Digital Inspiration Days”, whereby companies invite students and the public to visit their offices and learn more about the character of the jobs of the future. There will also be internship opportunities for ASEAN university students, as well as initiatives to train digital regulators and shape the curricula of technology and computing courses at 20 ASEAN universities.
The aim of the pledge is to establish a regional movement among businesses committed to empowering individuals through skilling, reskilling and upskilling. It will not only increase the number of workers hired for digital jobs and trained in digital skills, but also help support business leaders with insight and analysis of what other companies in the region are doing to build a future-focused workforce.
“The Fourth Industrial Revolution is unfolding at accelerating speed and changing the skills that workers will need for the jobs of the future,” said Justin Wood, Head of Asia Pacific and Member of the Executive Committee at the World Economic Forum. “These changes are happening just as the working-age population in ASEAN is expanding by 11,000 people every day – a rate that will continue for the next 15 years. Given these trends, it’s critical that businesses help to build digital skills in ASEAN.”
Called “ASEAN Digital Skills Vision 2020”, the public pledge is open for all companies to join, but a number of early champions have already made strong commitments. Google has pledged to train 3 million SME employees throughout the ASEAN region by the end of 2020, while Cisco, Lazada, Microsoft, and the Sea Group have pledged to train another 5,634,000 SME workers.
The pledge also calls for companies to offer ASEAN citizens the opportunity to participate in Digital Inspiration Days, and Cisco, Microsoft, Grab and Sea Group have collectively committed to offer the opportunity to 1,035,000 ASEAN citizens by 2020. Similarly, the pledge calls for internships for ASEAN university students, and Microsoft, Sea Group and Tokopedia together have committed to hire 18,000 interns. Microsoft has also pledged to hire 8,500 ASEAN digital workers by 2020.
Supported by the Forum’s Digital ASEAN initiative, success stories and innovative approaches will be shared through an online platform to magnify their impact, and a series of workshops involving the private sector and government will be staged over the next two years to ensure the efforts of businesses both align with, and help to shape, public policy on training and education.
Pichet Durongkaveroj, Minister of Digital Economy and Society of Thailand, and one of the advisers of the Digital ASEAN initiative, said: “The rise of artificial intelligence and advanced robotics is creating concern about the future of work. But I am more optimistic. I believe that if workers have the right skills, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be highly empowering and will lift wages and living standards in Thailand and across the region. But we need to make sure that workers receive the right training and education today.”
Rajan Anandan, Vice-President for India and South-East Asia at Google, said: “ASEAN could see an uplift of $1 trillion in GDP by 2025 by using its digital economy to accelerate intra-regional trade and growth. SMEs will be the key to this growth and their digital workforce will be the change agents in their communities. We’re committed to supporting South-East Asia’s promising digital economy.”
Forrest Li, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Sea Group, said: “The ASEAN region is brimming with entrepreneurial potential. But for SMEs to start businesses and grow them successfully, they’ll need to learn the right skills for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Building on our existing efforts to enable SMEs around the region to benefit from the opportunity of e-commerce, we are committed to making a major contribution to providing these skills.”
Naveen Menon, President of Cisco Systems in ASEAN, said: “ASEAN’s economy is poised to grow further as digital innovation and adoption gather pace. However, the increased adoption of technology will result in a change in the nature of jobs and workforce requirements across the region, which demands rapidly reskilling. We are committed to work with all stakeholders to build a sustainable pool of homegrown talent in ASEAN.”
Lucy Peng, Chairwoman and Chief Executive Officer of the Lazada Group, said taking part in the World Economic Forum pledge is one of the key levers to create an inclusive and sustainable e-commerce ecosystem to support South-East Asia’s economic growth. “Sellers want to go beyond trading on a platform. They want to create their own universe in the digital world to reach out and connect with Internet-savvy and increasingly mobile consumers,” she said. “We are championing our seller communities by using our technology and logistics infrastructure to help them ride the e-commerce boom and flourish into sustainable businesses.”
Sunny Park, Corporate and Legal Affairs Regional Director for Microsoft in Asia Pacific, said: “ASEAN is the future of borderless economies, investments, e-commerce and education and we believe in a future where every young person has the skills, knowledge and opportunity to succeed. Digital skills are essential for the jobs of today and tomorrow, and can open the door to greater economic opportunity. Right now, over half the people on the planet lack basic access to the knowledge and skills that would enable them to participate in the new digital economy. Together with our partners, we are going to change that. We are going to empower every person and SME in ASEAN to achieve more.”
The Digital ASEAN initiative was launched by the World Economic Forum in Singapore in April 2018 in response to demand from the Forum’s regional partners in ASEAN, both public and private. The aim is to work on the issues that will underpin a regional digital economy in ASEAN so that the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be fully unlocked and become a force for regional economic inclusion. The initiative has launched five task forces, each focussed on a specific digital issue:
- Pan-ASEAN Data Policy – Shaping a common regional data policy
- ASEAN Digital Access – Optimizing high-quality broadband access for ASEAN
- ASEAN Digital Skills – Building a shared commitment to train digital skills for the ASEAN workforce
- ASEAN e-Payments – Building a common ASEAN e-payment framework
- ASEAN Cybersecurity – Nurturing cooperation and capacity building in ASEAN cybersecurity
By the end of 2020, the aim is for the coalition of companies involved in the pledge to:
- 20,000,000 Train 20 million people working at ASEAN small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) in digital skills;
- 2,000,000 Raise US$2 million for scholarships for ASEAN technology students;
- 200,000 Hire directly an additional 200,000 ASEAN digital workers;
- 20,000 Engage 20,000 ASEAN citizens in “Digital Inspiration Days”, where companies invite students and the public to their offices to learn more about jobs of the future;
- 2,000 Offer 2,000 internship opportunities for ASEAN university students;
- 200 Contribute to the training of 200 ASEAN digital regulators; and
- 20 Contribute to shaping the curricula of technology and computing courses at 20 ASEAN universities.
Caribbean vital to tackling COVID-19, climate change
The twin crises of COVID-19 and climate change present a once in a generation opportunity for the Caribbean and its development partners to form a new alliance for inclusive, sustainable and resilient recovery, the UN Secretary-General told regional Heads of Government on Thursday.
António Guterres was addressing a virtual meeting of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), where he praised countries for their leadership during the crisis, even as they confront shocks to their economies, tourism sector, trade and remittances.
Devastating regional impacts
The UN chief stated that the pandemic’s socioeconomic impacts have been worse than the virus itself for some developing economies, including the Caribbean.
He highlighted his push for a relief package equivalent to at least 10 per cent of the global economy, as well as an appeal for debt relief.
“As you have long advocated, the world must look beyond incomes and factor in the vulnerabilities of countries. The private sector, including the credit rating agencies, also must be engaged in relief efforts”, he said.
A strong moral voice
Mr. Guterres also underlined his solidarity with CARICOM members in addressing climate change.
“Your leadership and moral voice on the front lines is crucial for charting a recovery that will accelerate the decarbonization of the global economy and build a more inclusive and resilient future,” he said.
The Secretary-General emphasized his full support for the Caribbean vision of becoming the first fully climate-resilient region in the world.
However, he noted the “significant barriers” countries face, including for access to climate finance.
UN stepping up support
Turning to sustainable development, Mr. Guterres reported that the UN system is ramping up support for the Caribbean and all small island developing states.
“We are putting our best capacities and resources to support your voice and participation in global governance processes, to provide sound policy advice and help broker the partnerships that will facilitate your continued progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.
“This includes expanding and reconfiguring as necessary our physical presence and ensuring tailored support to every country in the Caribbean.”
The Secretary-General also thanked CARICOM for highlighting the crucial issue of advancing gender parity, and its unwavering support for multilateralism.
Women leaders ‘essential to peace and progress for all’
Women continue to be under-represented in key decision-making over the battle against COVID-19, the chief of the UN gender empowerment agency said on Thursday, addressing the Security Council, adding that the situation is even “worse for women in conflict areas”.
“In war zones and everywhere in the world”, individuals are “calling for inclusion and representation, which is one of the main reasons why so many ordinary people are taking to the streets, organizing protest and raising their voices”, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka emphasized to the 15-member body.
Meanwhile, Secretary General António Guterres reiterated his call for a global ceasefire, underscoring that the COVID-19 pandemic is “the greatest test” the international community has faced since the Second World War.
“I appealed for an immediate global ceasefire so that we could focus on our common enemy: the COVID-19 virus”, he said.
Pointing to the 20-year-old landmark resolution 1325, he noted that in supporting the global ceasefire, the Council made a “strong and valuable link” to the Women, Peace and Security agenda.
COVID-19 and resolution 1325
Citing the resolution, Mr. Guterres observed that COVID-19 is having a disproportionate negative impact on women and girls, leaving them victims of rising gender-based violence while simultaneously diverting resources from their health care, including sexual and reproductive services, as well as threatening long-term impacts on women’s employment and girls’ educations.
“This will contribute to the continued marginalization of women from political decision-making and peace processes, which damages everyone”, he upheld.
Leading the charge
Moreover, women are on the front-line responses of the pandemic, keeping communities, economies and societies running through their crucial work as care givers, nurses, teachers and farmers, among other vital services. And they are peacebuilders at the local level and in communities around the world.
“We must also recognize women who step up every day in conflict zones to help those at risk, mediating between groups to enable access by civilians and humanitarian aid, building trust and strengthening social bonds”, Mr. Guterres continued.
Noting that the resolution calls for women to be in positions of leadership and decision-making, the top UN official remarked their “remarkable” successes in containing the pandemic while also supporting livelihoods.
“This confirms an obvious truth: Institutions, organizations, companies, and yes, Governments work better when they include half of society, rather than ignoring it”, he stressed, saying that women are “essential to peace and progress for all”.
In addition to turning the climate crisis around, reducing social divisions and making sustained peace, “women’s leadership in all spheres will be critical to finding the fastest, safest route through this pandemic, and to building a more peaceful and stable future”, added the Secretary-General.
Continuing the uphill battle
Over the past two decades that the resolution was adopted, women have made important strides towards inclusion, but gender equality remains aloof.
The UN chief painted a picture of power structures dominated by men, including that women lead only seven per cent of the world’s countries; mostly men make decisions about international peace and security; and while women are represented in UN mediation teams, “they remain largely excluded from delegations to peace talks and negotiations”.
Women’s meaningful participation in mediation “broadens the prospects for peace, stability, social cohesion and economic advancement”, stated the Secretary-General, advocating for innovative, “rapid and decisive’ solutions to include them in peace processes.
“Women must be included as a priority from the outset”, he said urging all States to use their “political influence, funding and support to incentivize and create conditions for women’s equal representation and participation in peace talks”.
UN on record
The UN chief outlined his work in ending discrimination against women within the Organization and affirmed the importance of women’s “full participation for uniformed personnel”.
He commended the Council for passing the first resolution this year focused on women in peacekeeping, noting that although the numbers are still too low, they continue to increase significantly, which is an important trend as women bring their own perspectives and expertise to every issue, including peace and security.
The women, peace and security agenda challenges the relentless focus on interstate conflict at the expense of measures to protect women with 20 years of research and practice demonstrating the close links between gender equality, conflict prevention, and peace.
“For Governments and international institutions everywhere, gender equality is one of the surest ways of building social cohesion and trust, and inspiring people to be responsible, participating citizens”, he flagged.
“We cannot wait another twenty years to implement the women, peace and security agenda”, concluded the Secretary-General. “Let’s start that work together, today”.
Women step up, speak out
Adding her voice, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Danai Gurira, who is also an actor and award-winning playwright, said that when women make their mark “in spite of impossible odds” it was not because they were given “the space and the opportunity, but because they protested against their exclusion and persisted”.
In her briefing, Zarqa Yaftali, Afghan Activist and Executive Director of Women and Children Legal Research Foundation said that “peace cannot come at the cost of women’s rights”.
“All we have achieved hangs in the balance in the current notiations between the Talban and the Afghan Government”, she asserted.
Women the ‘driving force’ for peacebuilding in Colombia
The UN deputy chief has underscored the importance of the full and comprehensive implementation of Colombia’s historic 2016 peace agreement, to enable sustainable and resilient communities in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
At the end of a two-day virtual visit to the Latin American country, Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed also highlighted the need to ensure a focus on rural areas hit hard by both violence and COVID-19.
“It is essential to create renewed development opportunities, improve security and emphasize the presence of the State in a country that suffered from conflict and is now suffering from the effects of the pandemic,” Ms. Mohammed said at a virtual press conference at the end of the visit.
“This is the time to think about measures to rebuild better, to leave no one behind and to achieve sustainable peace.”
In this enormous task, the role of women is vital, she added, noting that four years after the signing of the peace agreement, women continue to be the driving force behind its implementation.
The deputy UN chief also paid a virtual visit to Vista Hermosa (literal translation: beautiful view), a region in south-east Colombia that was badly affected during the conflict.
“We had the opportunity to visit Vista Hermosa to meet with young women peacebuilders, deeply affected by armed conflict and committed to find peace and dignity for their communities,” said Ms. Mohammed.
“The UN stands with you in solidarity toward implementation – which we recognize is not without challenges – to support the growing momentum for economic and social reintegration for all.”
Ms. Mohammed also met with women human rights defenders and women leaders, and discussed the progress and challenges in implementing the peace agreement. She was inspired by the courage and resilience of by women’s organizations and women leaders who continue to be a driving force for peacebuilding amid insecurities.
Gender equality in COVID-19 recovery
The Deputy Secretary-General held a meeting, via videoconference, with President Iván Duque where they discussed the socio-economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the country, protecting the most vulnerable, and promoting inclusive, green and sustainable recovery.
Ms. Mohammed commended Colombia’s commitment to promoting gender equality, and its efforts to ensure women are at the heart of the COVID-19 recovery and in implementing the peace agreement.
The virtual visit also showcased the work of the United Nations in Colombia, as well as its collaboration with national and local authorities and civil society organizations – including in the response to the pandemic, development challenges and peace consolidation.
First virtual visit since COVID-19 outbreak
The virtual trip on 28 and 29 October was the first such visit since the outbreak of the pandemic.
The Deputy Secretary-General was accompanied by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN-Women; Rosemary DiCarlo Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs; and Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.
The last time the Ms. Mohammed visited Colombia in person was in 2015 for the launch of the Inter-Institutional Commission for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
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