By V. Abhishek
The G20’s Digital Economy Working Group (DEWG) recently concluded its last meeting in Bangalore, following which the Digital Economy Ministers adopted the finalized outcome document. It represented a significant boost to India’s efforts to lead global conversations on the digital economy, having obtained consensus on deliverables across the three discussion areas: Digital Public Infrastructure, Security in the Digital Economy, and Digital Skilling. The success of this year’s DEWG also stems from members’ commitment to action-oriented outcomes, building on discussions from previous presidencies.
The outcomes of the Digital Skilling agenda, in particular, are crucial for the G20’s vision of an inclusive digital economy. A digitally skilled, future-ready workforce lies at the heart of digital transformation happening across governments and businesses.
Increased reliance on technology, and the consequent demand for a digitally skilled workforce have placed a greater emphasis on digital reskilling and upskilling strategies. With technologies impacting multiple sectors, the new wave of work is undergoing transformation from ‘man-machine’ arrangements to a blend of ‘man, machine, and algorithms’. The pace of these developments has, unfortunately, also created gaps in the supply and demand of digitally skilled labour. The World Economic Forum, in its Future of Jobs Report 2023, highlighted that companies found ‘difficulty in bridging skill gaps’, and ‘attracting skilled talent’ as major barriers for business transformation. The report also pointed out these barriers to be more prevalent in developing economies.
It is thus imperative for policies to take into account the current landscape of digital skills, and plug gaps in existing initiatives. For example, in India, a Gallup research commissioned by Amazon Web Services (AWS) revealed that 92 per cent of employers anticipate AI, Quantum and Edge Computing, Cryptocurrency, Blockchain, and 5G becoming standard in future business operations. Fundamental digital skills for marketing, retailing, and content creation also offer significant chances for entrepreneurship-driven growth, not only in India but also in many developing economies.
The G20’s role is vital to catalyse readiness for these opportunities. The grouping previously prioritized bridging socio-economic divides and promoting technology adoption among vulnerable populations for an inclusive digital economy. Discussions on topics like Future of Work (Argentina, 2018) and a human-centred society (Japan, 2019) were based on these considerations. Last year, the Indonesian presidency emphasized measuring digital literacy and skills, with jobs forming a crucial part of discussions. In the future, sharing knowledge across countries and collaborating with multiple stakeholders will be vital for creating effective policies for developing the digital economy workforce.
The DEWG this year welcomed all deliverables under the digital skilling agenda, with countries appreciating India’s focus on ensuring digital skills and training opportunities for all.
The first deliverable, Toolkit for Designing and Introducing Digital Upskilling and Reskilling Programs, compiles diverse digital initiatives from G20 members and guests. It offers lessons from program implementations, serving as a valuable resource for countries planning future digital skill initiatives. For example, accessibility to programs, partnerships with industry and other stakeholders for design of training curriculum, and early focus on data-based skills, emerged as key components of such initiatives. In addition to this, the toolkit also presents a flexible strategy for developing, or improving digital upskilling and reskilling programs. This strategy includes steps like recognizing and prioritizing emerging technologies, investing in training providers, and exploring how credentials and outcomes of digital skill training can be better leveraged.
Countries also appreciated and welcomed the second deliverable, a Roadmap for Cross Country Comparison of Digital Skills. Due to varying definitions and classifications of job roles, tasks, and the digital skills involved, this broad-based roadmap helps create a shared understanding of the same, among countries. As an example, two (or more) countries in dialogue, can bridge differences in the understanding of a ‘Data Scientist’ or a ‘Systems Engineer’ role, and the skills, experience, or credentials required. Similarly, this roadmap can also help understand the digital skill needs for non-ICT roles, for example, in advanced manufacturing, or digital marketing. The roadmap thus enables countries to identify emerging skills and trends, inform government and industry upskilling policies, and align with international, or more advanced benchmarks, thus coordinating approaches to digital skilling.
The third deliverable, a virtual Centre of Excellence, is envisioned as an online, dynamic information repository on the digital skilling ecosystem and mechanisms of participating countries. To be developed with UNESCO, it seeks to facilitate information sharing on national skill qualification frameworks, digital skill taxonomies, occupational standards, good practices, acceptable credentials, and more. It could guide evidence-based policy making by sharing research on skill demand and supply, also leveraging information and insights from UNESCO’s work in this space.
Given the rapid pace of evolution of digital technologies, global commitment to ensure workforce readiness must be a sustained process. The G20 can facilitate this commitment, as it represents close to 85 per cent of the global GDP, 75 percent of global trade, and nearly 2.2 billion people in employment.
Achieving agreement on the proposed deliverables under digital skilling, is thus, a pivotal moment for India, bringing together countries who are currently in different stages of digital transformation. India’s presidency of the G20 may soon come to an end, but it must continue building on the idea that a future-ready workforce is key to an inclusive, resilient, and sustainable digital economy.
This article first appeared in ET Government, https://government.economictimes.indiatimes.com/blog/man-machine-and-algorithms-g20-under-india-takes-giant-step-in-digital-skilling/103526159
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