Growth in the information technology sector is moving at a phenomenal pace which means there will be a an increasing demand for professionals in the sector.
INFORMATION technology (IT) globalisation has changed the overall socio-economic, cultural and geographical aspects of our societies.
The advancement and globalisation in information technology has pushed the world into a tunnel like “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” museum, where every next step introduces us with amazing new technologies, software and applications. It’s like a one-way tunnel that stretches endlessly.
The IT industry has become so advanced and fast that now people talk about new technology and products that are about to come out instead of what they already have.
We are enjoying the most modern and advanced technologies, software and applications of IT in various forms.
This is not limited to just web applications, online shopping, trading and services, mobile applications, social networks, and free messaging and calling services.
Even IT has become a need for other fields like engineering, medicine, business administration, mathematics, accounting and finance and the arts.
The applications of IT are overwhelming and everywhere. All other fields are using IT products, services and applications.
This has led to interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary fields, and have created a lot of opportunities for IT professionals in all the fields.
The computer era that started with mainframes and PCs has now entered into a new age of smart mobile phones, handheld and pocket devices with intelligent systems and applications.
The whole world is now in our pocket with just a single touch. People remain connected with each other 24/7 through social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and calling and messaging services like WhatsApp, Viber, Skype, Vimeo and Line.
Any incident, news or invention reaches the other corner of the world within minutes. These applications are not only available on PCs and laptops, but also on smart phones and tablets.
The market is flooded with the latest electronic gadgets. The big companies like Apple and Samsung have produced a variety of smart phones and tablets of all price ranges.
Due to this, people can afford and use the latest technologies, products and services for their personal use, jobs and business.
Cheap technology made available to everyone has played a role in changing all other fields and has made them IT-dominant. No other technology in recent times has captured the whole world that quickly.
These technologies and services are not luxuries or fun anymore, but have become necessities for every person, business, job, household, employees and companies.
The widespread use of smart phones and tablets with the support of WiFi, 3G and 4G services have totally changed the meaning of utility software. The traditional applications developed for PCs with Windows and Mac platforms are now available for Android and iOS platforms.
In addition, a large number of smart, interactive and lightweight mobile applications for all types of daily work with interactive interfaces are continuously available for mobile phone users.
Many banks, companies, government departments, shopping and social networking websites have given mobile versions of their applications.
Similarly all our payments and needs can be taken care of through our smart phones, simply because of technological advancements. The benefits of the advanced use of networked computers come through cloud computing, grid computing and cluster computing and high-speed Internet. The big data and Internet of Things are the latest trends that sketch the future of IT.
These technological evolutions have completely changed the trends and preferences of individuals as well as all sectors of the world economies and societies. Individuals are using technology for their personal use, such as staying connected with their families, friends and colleagues, information sharing and fun activities.
The public and private sector companies and institutions use it to improve their business processes, business operations, profit earnings, as well as understand their clients, market analysis, trend analysis, customer behaviour, market competitions, quality services, strategic information and decision-making.
Since its inception, the IT field is now at its peak. Such technological advancements have made IT a necessity at both public and private sectors at all levels.
As a result, it has greatly increased the demand for IT sector employees in all areas, including business, engineering, agriculture, finance and management. The IT industry is divided into three segments, namely hardware, software and services.
In all these three areas, there is a clear shortage in the supply of good-quality fresh graduates and experienced professionals in many different IT areas, including SAP, big data, programming, web development, database administration, mobile applications, network and information systems security, project management, and multimedia authoring.
Realising the importance of IT, Malaysia is also working on various plans and strategies both at domestic and international levels.
With the support and favourable government policies, Malaysia is also able to keep pace with development and advancements happening at international levels.
Digital Malaysia is such a strategic national programme to move the country towards the digital economy by 2020. The main objective is to promote persistent use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in all aspects of the Malaysian economy.
It will ultimately help develop a global community, increase gross national income and improve the standards of living. In short, it will empower the government, businesses and all Malaysians.
The 2020 Digital Malaysia programme has targeted to produce 160,000 high-value jobs, with additional RM7,000 income per annum for 350,000 citizens.
As a part of this programme, digital entrepreneurs, including Malaysian youth and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), will be some of the main target groups.
According to a study conducted by MSC Malaysia on talent demand and supply, the demand for ICT professionals is growing such that annually the ICT industry would need more than 33,000 knowledge workers.
By 2018, the total demand for ICT professionals is projected to be 134,438. In 2014, there was a shortage of 5,800 computer science (CS) and IT talent workforce against the demand of 13,300.
In short, the supply of CS and IT graduates fulfils only 60% of the demand. It is important for Malaysia to keep a balance in supply and demand of both fresh and experienced graduates to meet the growing demands of the IT industry.
Malaysia is complementing its requirements by hiring foreign talents from India, Thailand, UK, Japan, China and the Middle East, but there is need to bridge this supply-demand gap from the domestic workforce.
Currently, 59% of the Malaysian IT pool belongs to user groups such as technical helpdesk analysts, IT business analysts and computer operators.
However, there is also need to produce more professionals at a creator level, such as software engineers, programmers, solution architects and designers.
At present, programmers and technical support people are the most common roles in the existing workforce.
Some 80% of the job vacancies require experienced professionals while the remaining 20% are for fresh graduates.
The IT industry needs 107,000 experienced people and approximately 27,000 fresh graduates between 2014 and 2018.
Since 2010, there has been an 8% increase in the salaries of fresh graduates and the trend shows that it will keep increasing.
While multinational companies (MNCs) offer higher starting salary to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), salary increments for IT professionals are more attractive and competitive among SMEs than MNCs.
The average salary of an IT professional is around RM7,000. A typical IT project manager earns a monthly salary of about RM9,000.
In the coming years, the jobs that will be in high demand are software engineers, programmers, mobile application developers, SAP analysts and consultants, animators (graphics and multimedia), customer support engineers, technical support engineers, software architects, IT project managers, IT managers, data centre managers, security specialists, operations heads, network, systems and information security specialists and data analysts.
Similarly, SAP, Oracle and network technologies are expected to be in huge demand as well. The IT industry is now facing a severe shortage of fresh graduates as well as experienced talents in the emerging fields of big data analytics, data science and Internet of Things.
Besides their qualifications, fresh graduates need to have interpersonal communication skills – an absolute necessity these days.
The job market for fresh IT graduates and experienced professionals is quite vast. IT professionals are an integral part of any organisation, not just in Malaysia but in other countries too.
To produce a good quality IT talent pool, there is a need to improve the fresh graduates’ soft skills, such as communication, problem solving, presentation and leadership skills, positive attitude and good command of English.
There is also a need for industrial exposure and training for both students and lecturers and better academic-industry collaborations.
We are soon going to see a new phase in the IT field, such as enormous data growth, multimedia and animations, touch and sensory applications, network and system securities and the Internet of Things, where billions of devices will be connected to each other.
This is a never-ending journey. All these circumstances show that the demand for IT professionals is only going to continue at a rapid pace, with higher salaries and good fringe benefits.
Dr Rehan Akbar is the head of the Department of Information Systems, Faculty of Information and Communication Technology,
Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR). This is one in a series of articles on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics from UTAR.
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