KUCHING: Sarawak needs to invest more in workforce reskilling and upskilling to produce the workforce necessary to unlock the potential of the digital economy, says Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.
Rapid advances in technologies such as nanotechnology, artificial intelligence (AI), data science, robotics, cybersecurity, and other emerging technologies are changing the very nature of jobs in a digital economy environment and the skills needed to execute the jobs, he said when delivering a keynote address entitled ‘Unlocking the potential of digital economy for Sarawak’ at the Immersive Learning Summit hosted by Eon Reality at its IDC and VR Innovation Academy Worklife Hub in Bologna, Italy on Wednesday.
EON Reality is a multinational virtual reality and augmented reality software developer founded in 1999 and headquartered in Irvine, California.
Abang Johari said companies would not be able to fall back on hiring new employees in the attempt to future-proof their workforce.
“To address the problem, we need to invest more in workforce reskilling and upskilling,” he pointed out.
Abang Johari said while AI would create new jobs, the positions would require a different set of skills. Citing the World Economic Forum, he added at least 133 million new roles would be generated globally as a result of digital transformation by 2022.
The chief minister said as new roles emerge and skills requirements change, the size of the existing pool of skilled workers would not suffice to meet the demand.
He told the audience that soon after taking over as chief minister, he spearheaded the digital economy initiative to revolutionise Sarawak’s economy and industries, and to spur socioeconomic growth and advancement.
“I, supported by cabinet colleagues, want Sarawak to be part of the global economy, with opportunities to tap into the global economy worth over US$100 trillion in the next 10 years,” he said.
He reiterated that a digital economy for Sarawak is necessary to reduce its overreliance on natural resources.
“If we want to get out of our dependence on natural resources, we need to be part of the digital economy, which has been growing exponentially and it is a global economy creating millionaires by the day,” he said.
He told the audience that Sarawak had embarked on several initiatives in its digital transformation journey including digital infrastructure, Sarawak ID, Sarawak Pay and e-commerce facilities, Old Kuching Smart Heritage City, AR/VR driven tourism portal, establishing innovation hubs, and Digital Village to support entrepreneurs in the digital space.
Abang Johari said the Sarawak government is also digitalising its systems and processes throughout various agencies and departments, to increase productivity through the efficient use of resources, easier access to information, as well as wider and quicker service reach.
“Sarawak Pay, launched by the Sarawak government in December 2017 is the government’s e-wallet platform to help support e-commerce, FinTech, and digital government. Sarawak Pay has 125,000 registered users, with transactions valued at over RM35 million. Our target is to reach 150,000 users by the year end,” he said.
Sharing further with the audience on Sarawak’s digital transformation journey, he said the state also needed to bring its digital infrastructure up to date so that high speed connectivity could be provided to all Sarawakians.
“We are rolling out 600 telecommunication towers with 300 to be completed by the end of 2020,” he said.