Asean region needs more data scientists — IBM exec

By Espie Angelica A. de Leon

IBM Australia executive Stephen Braim believes that Southeast Asia has a dearth of data scientists and therefore needs more professionals who will analyze data to extract patterns, insights, and opportunities that will benefit enterprises.

Stephen Braim, IBM’s government and regulatory affairs vice president for Asia Pacific, China and Japan

Braim, government and regulatory affairs vice president for Asia Pacific, China and Japan and global market support at IBM, shared his opinion with members of the press at one of the roundtable discussions held during IBM’s 2018 Think Asean conference.

Held on May 8 and 9 at the Resorts World Sentosa Convention Center in Singapore, Think Asean gathered IBM officials and employees around the region, partners, clients, and the media for insightful discussions on new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), IoT, and blockchain.

“I think there’s a big gap and it’s right across the region,” Braim said, “I think we’re behind.” Even Singapore and Australia have shortages, according to him.

What the region has, he revealed, are enough workers who have knowledge of data science combined with industry capability.

“If you think about the aviation industry, or the banking industry, or the telecom industry, there’s a lot of people who perhaps understand data science but don’t understand about the applications of data science to those sectors,” he explained. “So I think we need more data scientists.”

This therefore offers mid-career professionals with a huge opportunity for a career shift, Braim added. But they have to retool themselves with the skillset for data science and learn about this field of expertise especially with data now a viable instrument for business strategy and growth.

IBM Asean general manager Patricia Yim delivers the welcome address on the opening day of Think Asean

For her part, IBM Asean general manager Patricia Yim said that data provides enterprises with their competitive edge.

“The new natural resource is data,” she said. “What allows better quality analysis, prediction, insights, is when you have sufficient data.”

Next to data, cross border data is the next natural resource, with a lot of small and medium enterprises benefiting from cross border data flows.

“IBM is an avid believer in the free flow of data,” Braim stated.

Unfortunately, some governments are doing everything to shut down cross border data flows because of national security concerns and the like, according to Braim.

Asean countries do have data centers but these are localized, hence, free flow of cross border data is not possible.

“You can’t have data restrictions but yet want the best from AI and Watson doing global researches and understanding best health practices,” he said.

“Asean steps away from the ability to compete globally in cloud and AI and all of the benefits that come from that – whether it be healthcare, or banking, or education.”

Aside from panel sessions, media interviews, and roundtable discussions, Think Asean also featured the Think Park where AI applications were on exhibit and the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between IBM, AI Singapore, and Temasek Polytechnic. The MOU signaled the start of a collaboration that will strengthen Singapore’s AI capabilities and digital economy.

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