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ICT Skills Recognition in Asia Pacific

Paul Matthews, ITP CEO. 27 May 2019, 9:00 am
ICT Skills Recognition in Asia Pacific

How are tech and digital skills recognised when people move between countries, and between governments? 

We're working with a number of other countries in Asia Pacific and South East Asia on an initiative to support skills portability and cross-recognition across the region. The project has recently been formally adopted by APEC, with an upcoming workshop presenting progress to the 21 APEC member economies making up 60% of the world's GDP.

So as one of the Pilot countries, what's it all about and what will it mean for New Zealand? 

The ICT Skills Recognition project 

The project was initially devised to develop and promote an "ICT Skills Recognition Framework" within the Asia- Pacific Region, however the scope has increased and pivoted somewhat following detailed work over a series of workshops.

In essence, there are two key outcomes:

  1. Provide an ability for IT Professionals' skills in one country to be better recognised in all others in the region - essentially use the same framework across the wider region (and/or provide mapping of national frameworks in use), so "skills" in one country are mapped to those of all others; and
  2. Later, provide a pathway for countries in the region, especially developing countries, to easily adopt and implement an ICT Skills Framework. 

Another way of looking at it is supporting both standardisation of understanding of what constitutes IT-related skills in the region, and supporting portability of IT Professionals across Asia Pacific. All going well, this will enable New Zealand IT Professionals to gain significantly greater recognition in all 21 Asia Pacific countries.

Our intention is that one of the components of this is formal recognition of Chartered IT Professional NZ (CITPNZ) and Certified Technologist (CTech) certifications across the wider region, while also supporting other countries to implement something similar.

Who's involved

Now known as the APEC ICT Skills Framework project, the project was initially started by SEARCC, the South East Asian Regional Computer Consortium. SEARCC is an umbrella organisation for professional bodies like ITPNZ in our part of the world. 

The project was developed further by SEARCC at an Executive Council (EXCO) Meeting in Beijing in 2017. Following a workshop, and Dr Nick Tate (based in Australia and current President of SEARCC) was appointed Project Director on behalf of SEARCC. Dr Tate has been driving the project forward ever since.

Attendees at this initial workshop included representatives from ITP's equivalent professional bodies In Australia, New Zealand (me), India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Korea, China, Chinese Taipei and Papua New Guinea. 


The Steering Group met again in Sri Lanka at the end of 2018 to scope out the next stages. Earlier this year, after considerable further development work, the project formally became a project of APEC via the APEC TELWG.

So many acronyms! APEC stands for Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, the main inter-governmental forum for 21 Pacific Rim economies (read: countries). APEC work is broken into working groups, and TELWG is the Telecommunications Working Group covering everything tech-related. 

The full list of APEC member countries is here and includes the usual suspects (NZ, Australia, etc), most of South East Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Viet Nam etc), China, the US, much of South America, Canada, Japan and others. So a pretty significant list of countries.

While it's now an APEC project, SEARCC continues to run the initiative. In fact, the main SEARCC countries including New Zealand have formed the initial Pilot countries and also form the Steering Group for the project.

I'm New Zealand's representative on the Steering Group and popped over to Singapore a couple of weeks ago to meet with the rest of the group again, help formalise the design of the next phase, contribute to overall planning, and meet with potential partner global organisations such as The World Bank.



The three phases of the project

The project has been broken into three phases: 

Phase One

  1. Identifying early stage participants for this project
  2. Collaboratively identifying the early-stage candidate frameworks to be mapped
  3. Mapping the components of the framework to the context of the economies of early stage participants

Phase Two

  1. Determining the trust mechanisms that will allow an accrediting society in one economy to trust either a society in another economy or a third party trusted authority
  2. Implementing this framework with a defined number of early stage participants
  3. Evaluating the early stage implementation and making any required changes

Phase Three (as agreed)

  1. Expanding this participation throughout the Asia-Pacific region

Across the region, Computer Societies and Institutes which promote and support professionalism in ICT are at very different levels of maturity with widely varying membership levels and significantly different access to resources. Thus, Phase Three will involve significant work helping developing countries get caught up.


Progress so far

The full Steering Group has met 3 times, with lots of additional work happening between these larger formal meetings. These meetings and workshops have been focused on designing the detailed phases and making the decisions necessary to progress the project. 

As mentioned, I attended these meetings on behalf of ITPNZ, the last one in Singapore recently. At the meeting, SFIA (Skills Framework for the Information Age) was formally adopted as the base framework for mapping in Phase 1, and the detailed approach for Phase 2 was planned out.

A delegation also met with a team from The World Bank including their head of Digital Development, looking at collaboration with their initiatives for developing countries. Their job is to promote economic development across developing countries. There was a lot of crossover and follow-up discussions are now happening.

Phase 1 of the project is almost complete, with all initial target frameworks and approaches identified and work underway to complete mapping of existing national frameworks - such as those in Japan and the Philippines - to SFIA. We have an advantage in New Zealand in that SFIA is the most widely-used framework already, but we're also contributing to the other countries' mapping activities.

Phase 2 looks at trust mechanisms, such as assurance around CITPNZ and CTech and the equivalents awarded overseas, and other ways skills are recognised in different countries.

The Steering Group is also planning a detailed workshop for the 21 SFIA member economies in October - essentially presenting the work so far, and planned next steps, to all 21 Governments that make up APEC and 60% of the world's GDP. 

All in all, the progress is steady. The wheels turn slowly when working with large global organisations like APEC, but things are moving in the right direction and the outcome will be excellent for kiwi IT Professionals - helping significantly increase skills recognition across much of the world.

We'll keep you informed as the project continues to develop.


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