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WEF initiative pledges to equip 20 million ASEAN workers with digital skills by 2020

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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:

  1. Pan-ASEAN Data Policy – Shaping a common regional data policy
  2. ASEAN Digital Access – Optimizing high-quality broadband access for ASEAN
  3. ASEAN Digital Skills – Building a shared commitment to train digital skills for the ASEAN workforce
  4. ASEAN e-Payments – Building a common ASEAN e-payment framework
  5. 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.

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UNIDO and Italy further strengthen cooperation with focus on Africa and innovative partnerships

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The Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), LI Yong, spoke at the opening ceremony of the ‘International Cooperation Expo: job creation and innovation for sustainable development’ (EXCO 2019), which was organized under the patronage of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, the European Commission and IFAD.

“I welcome the organization of the EXCO, as it is very clear that the ambitious goals of the 2030 Agenda cannot be achieved by one country or by one institution alone,” said Li. “Our experience shows that a multilateral approach, and particularly working in partnerships, is key to addressing these challenges.”

The UNIDO Director General then opened the UNIDO International Award Ceremony, ‘Innovative ideas and technology on agribusiness’, as well as the ‘EXCO 2019 Hackathon: solutions for sustainable development’, with both also taking place in the Fiera di Roma. Organized by the UNIDO Investment and Technology Promotion Office (ITPO) in Italy jointly with the Future Food Institute, the Award Ceremony invited submissions of the best technologies and the most innovative and sustainable worldwide solutions in the agriculture and agro-industry sectors.

“The role of UNIDO and in particular the interventions by our ITPO network to transfer new technologies and sustainable production models including investments are fundamental to overcome barriers and help countries achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda,” said the UNIDO Director General. “Indeed, this award aims to support developing countries with innovative models to increase production in a sustainable manner and to build a resilient agribusiness environment.”

Li also met with Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Emanuela Claudia Del Re, to discuss scaling-up interventions in the agribusiness sector, including with long-standing private sector partners such as Illy Caffé, also how to benefit from the important expertise and interest of the Italian private sector. During their meeting, the Director General and the Deputy Minister also discussed opportunities to diversify the ongoing cooperation to new sectors of mutual interest, such as energy and the environment.

“The significant and vital relationships between UNIDO and the Italian Government for implementing development initiatives in the partner countries of the Italian Development Cooperation have been reviewed,” said Del Re. “From the Italian side, interest has been shown toward the new approach set by UNIDO in defining integrated projects with the private sector, such as the new initiative ‘UNIDO partnership model for de- risking investments in the Ethiopian coffee sector’.”

The UNIDO Director General also met Executive Vice President of ENI, Alberto Piatti, together with Director General of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Giorgio Marrapodi, to explore cooperation opportunities, notably in the field of applied research on energy as well as agro-value chains.

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Small Business in Kosovo to Gain Improved Access to Finance with World Bank Support

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The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved the Kosovo Financial Sector Strengthening Project, to improve access to finance for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), including startups, young entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses, by strengthening the financial and technical capacity of the Kosovo Credit Guarantee Fund (KCGF). The financial support for the project is €22.3 million ($25 million equivalent).

“The World Bank is pleased to support Kosovo authorities’ efforts to increase access to finance and ultimately enhance private sector job creation,” said Marco Mantovanelli, World Bank Country Manager for Kosovo.

The project will provide funds through the Ministry of Finance to KCGF to issue credit guarantees to support access to finance to MSMEs. As these types of businesses dominate the real economy and the labor market, improving their access to finance will support job creation and economic growth. With a focus on the underserved and productive segments of the economy, the project has the potential to directly impact poverty reduction, especially among youth and women. Currently, some creditworthy MSMEs do not have access to finance due to high collateral requirements, lack of credit history, or lack of financial reporting. The project will focus on these firms along with improving financial terms for firms who already have access to finance. It also aims to crowd in private sector funds to financing MSMEs by providing support to the partial guarantee scheme.

The project will support KCGF to develop special products targeted to women-owned businesses, startups and young entrepreneurs and develop monitoring and evaluation framework to track financial and economic impact of beneficiaries of KCGF.

This initiative is financed with a credit from the International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank Group. IDA credits are provided on concessional terms with zero or very low interest rates and long repayment periods. The financing for this project has a maturity of 30 years, including a 5-year grace period. The KCGF, a local, independent, sustainable, credit guarantee facility, will be responsible for the implementation of the project. KCGF enjoys full operational and administrative autonomy. It offers credit guarantees to Registered Financial Institutions on selected loans to MSMEs.

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ADB Marks International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is marking the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOT) for the first time by hosting two events over 2 days at ADB headquarters in Manila.

“ADB supports LGBT+ inclusion within and outside its organization. We are committed to a diverse and inclusive workforce where everyone is treated with respect regardless of gender, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, physical ability, and thinking style. We recognize that the promotion and strengthening of diversity, inclusion, and equality at ADB is critical to our effectiveness as an organization,” said ADB President Mr. Takehiko Nakao.

On 16 May, IBM Philippines President and Country General Manager Ms. Aileen Judan-Jiao made a presentation on IBM’s programs and initiatives to foster a diverse and inclusive workplace for all employees, including for those from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and related communities (LGBT+).

ADB hosted a panel discussion on 17 May, which brought together ADB experts and civil society representatives to discuss ways to promote the inclusion of LGBT+ communities in ADB operations. The panel members included civil society leaders from APCOM, the Asia Pacific LGBT+ health and rights organization, and Babaylanes, the Philippines LGBT+ student and youth organization. 

The inclusion of vulnerable groups in societies, including LGBT+ people, is critical to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable region, as envisioned in ADB’s Strategy 2030.

IDAHOT promotes inclusion and recognizes efforts to overcome the exclusion, discrimination, and violence that the LGBT+ community continues to experience in many parts of the world, including in Asia and the Pacific. IDAHOT recognizes the significant progress that has been made towards equality in many parts of the world. The date of 17 May was chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.

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