Monday, November 14, 2016

Twin Strategies to Realise Brunei's Growth Aspirations


Twin strategies to realise Brunei’s growth aspirations
on: November 14, 2016
| Danial Norjidi |

EARLIER this year, the National ICT White Paper and National ICT Manpower Masterplan were launched.

The White Paper and Masterplan were launched by the Ministry of Communications (MinCom) and the Authority for Info-communications Technology Industry of Brunei Darussalam (AITI) on February 4.

During the launch, AITI said in a statement that the National ICT White Paper was created to outline a strategic plan and programme for the implementation of ICT at a national level, to support the country’s aspirations for Vision 2035.

“The preparation of this White Paper focusses improvement efforts through initiatives that can be applied across the board over the six key sectors that include e-Government, energy, health, transportation, education and service.”

The National ICT White Paper was commissioned by MinCom and AITI to set the strategic direction for ICT in Brunei Darussalam for 2016–2020.

The White Paper itself advocates a ‘National Digital Strategy’ with ICT playing a role as Brunei’s future engine of economic growth. It consists of proposals to assist the country to leverage on ICT to diversify economically, boost the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), improving the quality of life for citizens and to achieve its goal of a ‘Smart Society’.

It also contains considerations from international ICT benchmarking findings and the influence of worldwide ICT trends, as well as input from a representative sample of local stakeholders.

Key concerns are raised in the White Paper, along with recommendations on how to address them. These concerns include: minimal successes from ICT industry development for economic diversification; lack of ICT manpower resources and possible mismatch; lack of consolidation and sharing of reliable and key data; silos and lack of integration across agencies; and bottlenecks in ICT infrastructure and common platforms.

The National ICT White Paper outlines three strategic outcomes: a vibrant economy powered by ICT, ICT-smart citizens, and a connected and capable nation.

Four strategic thrusts have been developed to realise these outcomes: create a thriving ICT industry; achieve a productive and diversified economy based on knowledge and innovation; inform, engage and empower the people; and build a next-generation government.

In total, 21 programmes have been proposed to set these thrusts in motion. Supporting these programmes are recommendations for the essential ICT enablers that prop up the entire ecosystem.

According to an excerpt from the White Paper, “The recommendations…stand guided by sound principles, namely top-down design, effective centralisation, citizen-centricity, demonstrable success, mobility first and context aware. When guided and executed well, it aspires to achieve eight key targets by 2020.”

These targets are: six per cent contribution by ICT sector to GDP; 6,000 skilled ICT professionals; five local SMEs with regional business; 30 places improvement in key rankings; 80 per cent customer satisfaction; cost of broadband to be 1.5 per cent average monthly income; 50,000 online B2C marketplace transactions; and 18,000 citizens trained in ICT literacy.

Meanwhile, the National ICT Manpower Masterplan was developed to complement the National ICT White Paper, in addressing workforce demand and the ICT skills gap.

“The Masterplan identifies the future needs of the ICT industry in the country by organising strategies and programmes to ensure the ICT-skilled workforce can meet those needs,” said AITI in its statement. “The Masterplan has been set up as a way to overcome the challenges of the ICT workforce and to enable ICT to be a key pillar of economic growth.”

Several key issues have been identified to be addressed from the analysis of the current ICT manpower, coupled with feedback from the industry and education institutions. These key issues include limited perception of an ICT career; lack of data on ICT manpower; skills gap and mismatch in the ICT talent pool; and insufficient demand for ICT services on the domestic front.

The Masterplan was devised as a means to overcome these challenges and enable ICT as a major pillar for economic growth. To measure success, the strategic goal is to grow the number of skilled professionals to 6,000 by creating 1,800 additional jobs in ICT by 2020.

In addition, the Masterplan identifies three desired goals as important proxies to the strategic target of 1,800 additional jobs, namely making ICT an attractive career option for Bruneians; developing highly skilled ICT professionals with industry relevant competencies; and creating a vibrant ICT industry in Brunei Darussalam as a source of employment.

To achieve these goals, four strategies with 21 programmes and initiatives have been proposed. The strategies involve attracting Bruneians to ICT careers, deepening the existing talent pool, and creating opportunities for ICT employment.

The Minister of Communications, Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Mustappa bin Haji Sirat delivered a speech during the launch of the White Paper and Masterplan.

“The launch of the National ICT White Paper and National ICT Manpower Masterplan is indeed timely, as we focus our attention on diversifying the country’s economy,” he said.

In that speech, he also shared that a number of studies showed that in developing countries the ICT sector contributes five to 12 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). For Brunei, this contribution reached 1.4 per cent in 2013.

“Although the economic situation is still uncertain, IT stocks continue to survive and perform well, being among the most expensive in the international market,” he said. “This fact has added confidence that the ICT sector can be advanced and developed, and open investment and work opportunities to be spearheaded by the private sector in particular.”

ICT, he continued, encapsulates almost all aspects of human activity and has been instrumental in improving the standard of living and wellbeing.

He said that, as a tool, digital technology is able to generate creative results such as multimedia, digital programs or system applications that have a high value to consumers and the society.

These results, he said, bring huge benefits because their impact on expanding connectivity through cyberspace and facilitating change; enriching the repository of knowledge and information; and improving performance with more efficient and effective management.

“To summarise, in order to produce something, ICT relies on human capacity, imagination, creativity and intellectual capability,” he added.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

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