Building digital capabilities for a future ready Malaysia (Opinion)

This post was first published on LinkedIn by K Raman, Managing Director of Microsoft Malaysia

As we settle into a new year, I’m reminded that the last 24 months were the most challenging for every single person on the planet. Filled with hardship and heartbreak, constraints, fear, confusion and so much more, it also proved to us that we as a human race are resilient. We stepped up to help communities, colleagues and peers. And we were change makers, learning new skills, hobbies and educating ourselves when movement control orders were implemented. That’s what I take with me into 2022 – the knowledge and our collective leadership in using tools, skills, technology to empower every person and every organization to achieve more. 

Our CEO, Satya Nadella put it succinctly when he said we saw two years of digital transformation in two months. From companies adopting remote work to industries moving to cloud; from governments using video conferencing to manage their territories to century-old organizations innovating for tomorrow. What the world realised quickly was that every job and every industry from accountancy to zoology requires some level of digital skills.

When I graduated from the University of Malaya, ‘digital skills’ wasn’t a term anyone recognized or used. Jobs like Data Scientist, Solutions Architect, and even Social Media Manager were unheard of. Yet my kids will be doing jobs that have not even been invented yet and this shows just how important it is to be equipped with the right skills.

The World Economic Forum shares that digital skills will be required for nine out of ten jobs, specifically, over the next 10 years, 1.2 billion employees worldwide will be affected by the adaptation of automation technologies and artificial intelligence. 

Shortly after the pandemic set in, we launched a global skilling initiative aimed at bringing free digital skills with learning resources from LinkedIn, GitHub, and Microsoft and I’m grateful that we surpassed our initial goal, and helped 30 million people. We scaled that commitment to Malaysia through our Bersama Malaysia initiative, where we pledged to bring digital skills to 1 million Malaysians by December 2023. 

We know this is a collective effort of a number of incredible organizations, including government support and we have partnered with various like-minded organizations and corporations to ensure our digital skilling programs are both inclusive, and bring impact to Malaysians from all walks of life.

As part of the recently launched Bumiputera Development Action 2030 (TPB2030), Microsoft was appointed by the Bumiputera Agenda Steering Unit (TERAJU) as the official skilling partner of MARA Community College. This partnership enables students at MARA Community College to incorporate content from Microsoft Learn into their existing curriculum, thereby facilitating access to resources useful for self-paced online learning. Authorized training partners from Microsoft have also been assigned to provide necessary support for the students’ upskilling needs. 

Importantly, students who successfully complete the curriculum will be awarded a globally recognized certification that affirms their digital competencies, thereby further boosting their employability upon graduation and empowering them to pursue their dream careers.

Similarly, under the guidance of certified trainers of Microsoft Office Specialist and Microsoft Innovative Educator, more than 50 students from Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM) obtained their Microsoft Office Specialist: Excel Associate professional certificate in early December 2021. The achievement is notable as it is testament to their digital and numerical skills – qualities recognized by an increasingly wide range of industries globally.

Education institutions are one of the most important pillars to nurturing future leaders of the country, and we carefully consider every chance we get to lend a helping hand. Looking back at our partnership with Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS (UTP), it was a timely collaboration as the institution was hands-on and welcomed an education ecosystem that moved in tandem with digital technology.

With the adoption of Microsoft’s Education Transformation Framework, the approach proved to be highly useful as educators get to accommodate up to 20,000 participants in one-go without having to exhaust teachers by repeating the same lesson multiple times. In fact, the teachers are able to deliver higher quality lessons each time while students stay engaged.

Partnerships with education institutions are very close to our heart as our goal is to ensure that students pursuing their studies have access to equally advanced technologies and are well-equipped when they enter the workforce.

On top of collaborating with institutions, Microsoft is also conscientious of nurturing bright young talents, enabling them to fully utilize and further develop their competencies to become future leaders of our digitally-driven economy. In early 2019, we partnered with the Ministry of Education to launch the STEM4ALL initiative, which aims to transform the education system in Malaysia by promoting STEM education and ensuring graduates are equipped with the skillsets to drive their employability in this digital age.

As part of the initiative, Microsoft Malaysia Ambassadors Chloe Soh Ke Er and Serena Zara Taufiq, both who were then only 10 years old, had also met with policymakers to not only demonstrate their very own creations, but also teach them coding. This proves to show that there are no age limits when it comes to improving digital literacy, and inclusivity in the digital economy is not a pipe dream, but already a reality.

Enabling a Digitally Inclusive Malaysia 

When we launched our Bersama Malaysia initiative in April last year, our goal was to empower Malaysia’s inclusive digital economy and advance our nation’s digital transformation agenda. With a reciprocal goal to ensure no one is left behind as our nation embarks on its digital transformation journey, we have partnered with several organizations to bring digital skills to more Malaysians. 

  1. Collaboration with Social Security Organisation (SOCSO) and Junior Achievement (JA) Malaysia– Themed ‘Digital Skills for Tomorrow’s Jobs’, this joint program kickstarted in July 2021 with the aim of supporting the upskilling of 25,000 Malaysians, primarily graduates and unemployed individuals. Courses are offered in both English and Bahasa Malaysia, while materials are also derived from Microsoft’s extensive industry and training resources. Our end goal is also for successful candidates to secure employment upon completing the upskilling program. As such, efforts will be made to engage our partner ecosystem and customers to offer employment, internship, or practical training opportunities.
  2. Regional Partnership with Grab – We have been long-time partners with Grab, following a regional partnership aimed to bridge the digital gap within Southeast Asia. We introduced a training program to enhance the digital skills of Grab’s drivers and delivery partners. By doing so, drivers and delivery partners are empowered to look ahead and strive towards additional opportunities for employability beyond Grab-platform work. As of end 2021, we saw an overwhelming participation of more than 22,000 Grab drives and delivery partners – twice the number of participants we had targeted! 
  3. Code; Without Barriers – On the regional front, Microsoft along with 13 other companies across Asia Pacific launched the Code; Without Barriers program, designed to bridge the gender gap in the region’s fast-growing cloud, AI, and digital technology sectors, providing a platform to enable female developers, coders, and other technical talents to contribute towards inclusive economic growth. This program will also encourage innovation and better reflect the societal makeup of their region. On top of this, Microsoft’s Code; Without Barriers team is developing a community playbook that tackles how to handle bias and sustain diversity in emerging tech.

With the rapid pace of innovation and tech advancements, our vision is to empower every person and every organization to achieve more, and for us all to benefit together. By engaging with partners from different sectors, we are able to widen our reach and establish a pathway for diverse communities to be active participants in our nation’s digital economy.

The Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint – MyDIGITAL set out a target of transforming the nation into a regional leader in the digital economy. To realize this objective, it is important that the people are ready to be a part of this move — for it to be a truly inclusive digital economy. On this note, every one of us at Microsoft is excited to continue our on-going partnerships and walk hand-in-hand with our communities to embrace the nation’s digital transformation.

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