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Gaps in Computer Network Skills Could Lower Asia Pacific Competitiveness


IDC Study Shows Deficits in IT Competency Across Region for Advanced Skills; Findings Based on 1,000 Respondents From 12 Countries

HONG KONG, October 19, 2006 - By 2009, the Asia Pacific region, excluding Japan, will have 221,000 fewer people than it needs with advanced network skills in wireless technologies, security and IP telephony, up from 113,000 in 2006. This represents 55 per cent of the total network professional shortfall, which IDC forecasts will be 396,000 in 2009, up from 210,000 in 2006. As the network becomes more important to individuals and organisations, this skills shortage may eventually impede the region’s economic development.

Commissioned by Cisco®, the IDC survey involved more than 1,000 middle to senior management respondents from 12 countries in Asia Pacific. A key objective of the study was to measure the gap between demand and supply for network technology competency. The “gap” refers to a shortage of people with the required network skills to support business functions.

While the overall shortage of people with network skills is a concern, what is even more worrying is the gap in advanced technologies. According to the study, in 2009, Asia Pacific will have a 20 per cent skills gap for general network skills and a larger 26 per cent gap for advanced skills in wireless technologies, security and IP telephony. What’s more telling is that by 2009, the number of Asia Pacific countries with an advanced technology skills gap of 20 per cent or higher will double from four to eight.

Considering that 47 per cent of the respondents say the network is a key platform for process sharing and that employees in 46 per cent of the surveyed companies use the network to remotely access enterprise systems, the network is clearly gaining importance as a platform for connecting a business.

Marked Differences Among Countries

Across the region, the study revealed three main country groupings. The People’s Republic of China and India represent the large high-growth markets, where demand for information technology (IT) network skills will be the greatest. For example, local-area network (LAN) penetration in China is currently at 28 per cent, and a mere 2 per cent of the companies there constitute an additional 30,000 businesses that need network skills. In India, the demand for network skills is growing at the fastest rate in Asia Pacific, driven primarily by the expanding market for IT-enabled services and business-process outsourcing.

Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam make up the “developing economies” grouping that represents relatively immature markets with limited complexity and a growing demand for network infrastructure.

The third group comprises mature economies (Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea), where growth in IT spending and network equipment is relatively low. These markets have established complex infrastructures and educational systems that produce a steady supply of graduates with network technology skills.

However, the mature economies still have skills gaps, in particular for advanced technology skills. Korea has the largest gap in this group, as sophisticated network infrastructures - which require professionals with both network and application skills - are being developed in response to the growth in commercial and consumer markets.

Opportunities for Educational, Training and Government Bodies

The results of this study point to development opportunities in key industries.

Training and educational institutions can use the results of the study to anticipate demand in network and advanced network technology skills in order to create relevant programmes that will fill the competency gaps in their respective countries. Students and professionals should capitalise on the career options available in advanced technology networking.

With network technologies being an engine of growth with powerful influence over sectors such as education, transportation, manufacturing and trade, tourism, and financial services, which further contribute to GDP growth, this presents a challenge for government agencies to beef up needed competency and attract national investment.

Other key findings include:

* Network skills across several technology areas are becoming critical requirements for highly integrated data center environments. More than 65 per cent of the respondents consider data center and cross-technology skills as gaining importance, and network professionals now spend 70 per cent of their time on tasks that involve the network. Networking is seen as a foundation to support critical data center functions, including applications, transactions, storage, security and access control.

* 96 per cent of the respondents believe that the network will become more important for business operations in the future.

* 32 per cent of organisations across Asia Pacific already encounter difficulties in finding appropriately skilled network engineers.

* Enterprises in Asia that are unable to employ workers with the necessary network technology skills will find it difficult to remain competitive.

Overall, the survey shows that some countries in Asia Pacific have larger skills gaps than others and that the link between IT and the business is becoming clearer and stronger. More important, the convergence of the network with other IT technologies is creating a demand for IT staff with deeper and wider skill sets, says Owen Chan, president, Cisco Asia Pacific.

“The rapid adoption of networking technologies by enterprises throughout Asia Pacific will drive demand for these skills and an even higher demand for advanced skills in wireless, security and IP telephony,” says Chan. “In order to mitigate the negative effects of this skills gap to national economies and the regional economy as a whole, governments, businesses and education establishments should work together and act now to initiate targeted skills development programmes.”

Cisco is actively closing the skills gap through its Network Academy Program, which helps students in 25 Asia Pacific countries acquire industry-focused network skills. Working in partnership with educational and government institutions across the region, the programme addresses needs in both general and advanced network technologies. To date, 60,000 students have graduated and more than 100,000 are enrolled in 1,234 academies in the Asia Pacific. See (


This white paper presents the results of the IDC study commissioned by Cisco on the demand and supply of network skills in 12 countries across Asia Pacific in the period 2004-2009. It covers general network and advanced network skills, specifically in the areas of IP Telephony, wireless networking, and security.

The countries covered are Australia, India, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Hong Kong, PRC, Taiwan and Korea.

The following verticals were covered across Asia Pacific:

Communication service providers (telcos & ISPs)
Other enterprises

The sizes of companies that were covered at a regional level (number of employees):

50-99 (15%)
100-249 (35%)
250-499 (35%)
500+ (15%)

The number of skilled people is based on IDC’s proprietary skills model, which calculates full-time equivalents (FTEs). For the skilled people estimation above, IDC utilized the assumption that people on average spend 70% of their time working with network technology.

As well as collecting qualitative data through the survey, IDC used its skills model to provide quantitative data to assist in developing an accurate picture of existing and future demand for network professionals.
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Notes to editors

A copy of the IDC whitepaper is available on request.


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