Thursday, 29 Oct 2020
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BYLINE | New possibilities, new horizons: The next decade in Asia-Pacific & Japan

By
Amit Midha
president, Asia-Pacific & Japan
and Global Digital Cities
Dell Technologies Inc.

Business has always been about new possibilities, whether seizing and creating opportunities, forging new paths or finding opportunity within pre-trodden paths.

What is different about the possibilities ahead of us in Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) is that they are to be found in a context of new horizons and a new context. Faster than ever, industries or sectors are created, redefined or destroyed. The criteria for a successful business are being redefined. As a result, the opportunities businesses are seeking now are unrecognizable from those they sought a decade ago.

Technology is a driving force behind this change. I have long believed that technology has incredible power for good. This last decade has already seen tangible examples — whether medical technology, advancing genomic research, farming and agriculture, rethinking how entire populations would source food in the future, or in the transformation of how and why we work, creating a new understanding of what it means to work or be employed. The power that technology has would see these new horizons and drivers creating new possibilities that would transform three key areas of business for the region.

Technology leadership means global leadership

APJ has long been a source of innovation in its ability to foster new business models and embrace technologies. As home to more than 60 percent of the global population and predicted to grow to 5.3 billion in 2055, the power to effect change and emerge as a leader in those new technologies is immense. The internet economies in Malaysia, Thailand,
Singapore and the Philippines are increasing by 20 to 30 percent annually; Indonesia’s and Vietnam’s internet economies are growing more than 40 percent a year.

There are specific technologies where the region is already leading. 5G is set to be a game changer, with South Korea the first to launch it commercially worldwide and Singapore to follow in the footsteps later this year. In Singapore, Dell Technologies is working with AI Singapore to fund and advance research into applications of artificial intelligence (AI). This research is demonstrating new test-case and real examples of how AI could be used, which is advancing the deployment of AI on the global stage. Indeed, Singapore and Sydney were recently cited as two of the top ten cities most ready for AI disruption.

Innovation with emerging technologies is not new for the region. In 2016, Reka, a Malaysian research and development company, was already making strides with autonomous driving. With two passengers in the back seats and no driver, the autonomous car completed a ride from Kuala Lumpur to Malacca. Most recently, Singapore announced its first successful package drone delivery test as part of the country’s push to adopt more smart technologies. This trajectory would of course continue.

Deployments of technology are also advanced. The establishment of the Asean Smart Cities Network, a collaborative platform where cities from the ten Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) member-states work toward the common goal of smart and sustainable urban development, is testament of the openness and acceptance of technology to enable positive change. APJ cities confidently rank highest in global smart or digital city assessments. Globally, cities are looking to learn from the examples and experiences we see in APJ.

Organizations are also taking this approach to innovation to heart: a study found that eight in 10 leaders in APJ believe emerging technologies need to be at the heart of their organization’s transformation. This breeding ground for innovation is also witnessed in the rapid emergence and growth of start-ups, including those on the unicorn and decacorn scale. High-growth technology start-ups from Indonesia alone include e-commerce firm Zilingo and ride-hailing firm Gojek.

The innovation and the power of the ecosystem that enables innovation in APJ would be a global driving force for the next decade and further redefine the boundaries of business.

Innovating sustainably

Many parts of our region are still constrained by environmental degradation and poverty today. But many are in a position to drive positive change.

We are observing governments, corporates and citizens across APJ focusing more and more on sustainable innovation. Governments in APJ, including Thailand and Indonesia, have made advances such as bans on single-use plastics. Governments have an important role to play to bridge the conversations and create a better understanding for its citizens.

People expect the same level of commitment from organizations too. Corporates, such as Dell Technologies Inc., are setting ambitious goals against recycling and circular economy.

Corporate social responsibility today is a business imperative and an expectation of organizations’ customers and partners. Doing good is as important as doing well. As this intensifies, with organizations being held more accountable, consumer and business awareness increasing, we would see more organizations in APJ incorporate this mindset into every aspect of their business.

I believe this region has a very powerful opportunity to use its advantage to contribute to this positive momentum. Its scale and use of technology and innovation sets it apart in terms of finding opportunities to reach new goals and define new horizons.

New horizons for new generations

Tying together much of this change is the future generation that is soon to enter the workforce and increasing in importance as a spending power. In my work and personal life, I am curious to learn about Generation Z, their approach to work and life, and the impact they are going to have on the future of the region, innovation and business. As our future leaders, they would shape our future organizations and society.

We already know some clear facts about this generation. First, they want to work for organizations that are socially or environmentally responsible. Second, they want to use technology to do work that could help others or the environment, more so in APJ than anywhere across the world. Businesses and governments need to be cognizant of the demands this would place in terms of citizen demands and the expectations of organizations that they work for. This decade would see Gen Z wield their power and drive this focus on doing work to help others.

These forces combined, the power and ability of the APJ region, its existing credentials in leading innovation, the need for driving change in sustainability and anticipating the effect of Gen Z as they enter the workforce, would help to define a decade of new horizons.

Those horizons may not all be in view today but using the tools at hand to reposition and adapt would enable organizations to seek the new possibilities the future presents.

Tech Sabado, contributed article

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