Next-generation networks (NGNs) promising high-speed Internet connection will change the job environment and type of skill sets needed, say industry watchers who highlight key areas that organizations need to focus on.
In an e-mail interview, Ambrose Fong, senior manager of collaboration marketing for Cisco Asia-Pacific, said businesses are becoming more complex and driving change in the way individuals and organizations will operate.
Cisco is involved in helping retail service providers in Singapore deliver and build services on the country's enhanced broadband network with its Enabling Platform Innovation Centre (EPIC@SG) set up in December 2008.
A key trend that is transforming businesses is the global value chain, said Fong. "Businesses [are now working] with external suppliers, partners or contractors who are across the country, region and even the world.
"Work has expanded across multiple time zones, forcing a shift in where we work and when we work. [This change] is happening both within and outside corporate firewalls," he said.
In an e-mail interview, Allison Baird, client service director for Alexander Mann Solutions Asia-Pacific, noted that the Internet has become a "life support tool" for many users. "An incredible array" of activities has moved online, ranging from interacting with friends and families to shopping, communication, recruitment, research and collaboration, she added.
Users are also able to access the Internet on-the-go with their Web-capable mobile phones, a feat that was "considered laughable" 10 years ago, she added.
Key areas of growing import
Baird also highlighted four key areas in IT which she thinks will become increasingly important with NGNs:
1. Online/Web productivity
As technology evolves, the interface which allows users to interact with the content will evolve, too, said Baird.
Thus, there will be "massive potential" in Web productivity design as people find new and more efficient ways to interact with technology as well as enhance users' productivity.
2. Behavioral analysis
Human behavior remains the driving force behind everything people do, said Baird, which makes understanding the behavior of colleagues, customers and competitors essential for organizations.
This situation is even more accentuated in virtual environments, she said, so people who are able to understand, predict and take advantage of human behavior online will be in high demand.
Virtual exchanges will indeed grow, especially with the global value chain, according to Fong.
"As our extended team expands to include contractors, partners and suppliers outside the company network, businesses of the future need to understand how to collaborate with colleagues in different parts of the world and across business units," he said.
He added that collaboration solutions such as unified communications will help connect people, information, and teams, and enable comprehensive and effective collaborative experiences.
3. Information specialists
In his answer to trends affecting organizations, Fong noted that companies and users now face the problem of information overload.
"We are living in the 'participation age' when Web 2.0 tools like video portals, podcasts, blogs, wikis and discussion forums are changing the face of how information is created, published, managed, and consumed," he said.
This echoes Baird's expectation that information specialists will be highly in demand. "Aside from the issues of managing information in an effective manner, there are numerous considerations to be taken into account when sourcing [for] and using information," she said.
Information specialists will also be needed to prove the authenticity and legality of the data and to establish its context and history, she said.
4. Digital branding
It is not only individuals today who need to maintain their image online, politicians, celebrities and large organizations are also using the Internet to "carefully construct their brands", said Baird. "As more and more emphasis is put on online branding, digital branding specialists will be in much greater demand."
Asian countries are preparing themselves for NGNs. Singapore, for example, is in the midst of wiring the city-state with the fiber-optic next-generation National Broadband Network (NBN).
Since March this year, Malaysia has embarked on the high-speed information highway, although access fees in the country are still higher than others in the region.
On Monday, the fiber-optic network connecting Cambodia to the other four countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion--Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and China--had begun operation, The Phonm Penh Post reported. The US$17.6 million network is reported to have links with a network capacity of 2.5Gbps.