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Big Analytics Skills Enablement Initiative To Bridge The Skill Gap In Asia


The Big Analytics Skills Enablement initiative or BASE, is an industry led ecosystem designed to groom future workforce within the data sector in order to solve the dire skill shortage affecting businesses across the region. The initiative which was the brainchild of Cloudera Senior Director, Daniel NG, was launched last month at the Big Data Week Flagship event, Big Indonesia.

Big Community was privileged to interview Daniel further on how this idea came about and his personal thoughts on being the ‘Father of BASE’.

“Being an open source company, we understand that we can’t do everything ourselves. We are looking at a more collaborative environment to be part of,” he says, adding that he himself isn’t a conventional thinker when it comes to solving problems. “I look for an end in mind to achieve what is needed to be achieved”.

He said this as he explained that just because this is an IT initiative, doesn’t mean that they will only look at IT companies to collaborate with.

“In this case we aligned with a countries national agenda. In Malaysia it’s with Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation, in Singapore it’s with Smart Nation and Indonesia is also heading towards the smart nation idea. we look at the importance they place on building a smarter nation.”

Talking to leaders of those nations and heads of many corporations involved in building their own nations infrastructure, Daniel suggests that the search is really about what skills are necessary for a country to develop.

“We look at where the country really focused on in terms of welcoming investment into the country. Not so long ago it was about incentives. It was about tax breaks. 5 or 10 year tax breaks on profits. When you’re the only country doing it, you attract investors easily. It is a good idea until everyone gets on the bandwagon and now every country has that as an investment attraction.”

He shares that that age has passed and has now turned into attracting investors through the digital era where the data is the new oil.

“If you link it with the countries economy and the skills available, companies these days look for countries that have skilled data professionals to invest in. Because if you think about it, there isn’t a company that doesn’t have data.”

Companies that come from developed nations, will not look to transfer their workforce into a country as well, but rather incorporate the locals into their fold. It saves their startup costs and they can run lean for longer periods. This means the skills needed and the infrastructure that the country has to offer, needs to be on par with their requirements.  Getting value and insight from data is necessary if a company wishes to make an impact.

“The only way to find value out of the data is to have professionals. The first question that they will ask is ‘Do you have the skills. If you don’t have skills then I will go to the next country’. With tax breaks no longer being the differentiating factor, skills now determine where companies will go to invest.”

Daniel says that although this is a trend happening currently, he believes it will not be for very long. The launch of BASE is precisely to address that issue.

“Today’s BASE launch is trying to normalise the skill shortage. Skills will be the discussion for at least the next 3 to 5 years honestly. This is the window of opportunity that shouldn’t be missed out on. Our thoughts are aligned with the government ambitions and aspirations.”

BASE has been implemented in Singapore, Malaysia, China, Korea and Indonesia and has been tasked to bring BDA to the masses and introduce analytics into the minds of the people.

“We hear from many leaders that their minds eye has opened up to the possibilities once they have met with us.”

However, with new technology there will be a good and bad side, confesses Daniel. Technology is usually related with the young. However the young are inexperienced. On the opposite spectrum, taking himself as an example, he says he is too old for Big Data. This situation has now created two opposing poles within the space.

“Base 1 is really to excite the country about data analytics, get the ecosystem working together, and give free curriculum to universities. This will require at least two years to prepare students for the working world because you can’t hurry education. But if they have to wait 2 years, every government will tell you the war will be over by then,” describes Daniel, having a light moment but making the point that it is a tough fight.

To address this issue, Daniel was happy to pre-announce an initiative he calls BASE 2, specifically for Malaysia, which will address the issue of the missing data professionals that are required to fill the gap in the present moment. Working with Microsoft, RedHat and Cloudera, he says this initiative will train working data professionals to be ready for work. Daniel says he hopes to find similar partnerships in other countries as well to help them overcome their skill issues locally.