In the MTR carriage or walking down the street, eyes glued to the screen...punching buttons or controlling cartoon birds, they seem oblivious to their "meatspace" situations. Does a pregnant woman need the MTR seat a screen-puncher's occupying? He or she wouldn't know--their collective brain's in Birdland.
This is your next generation of IT workers. If you're lucky.
Macau was a foretaste: traditionally structured Immigration policy clashed with the massive need for IT talent in the tech-powered palaces lighting up the Cotai Strip, causing labor pains for CIOs. Macau's CIOs came to believe that their problems are common and "co-optition" is the best way forward, so they formed a Special Interest Group to share strategies for attracting and retaining competent IT workers. In the MSAR, promoting IT as a career is ongoing--the Macao Polytechnic Institute (MPI) holds award-ceremonies for high-school students and gives out certificates of achievement for tech inventions.
The MPI knows that Macau's kids need encouragement to develop the requisite skills for an IT career. Some think working as casino-dealers is more lucrative--perhaps, in the short-term. University students in Zhuhai, north of the border, may play an increasing role in Macau's labor market in coming years.
But what of Hong Kong? The HKSAR allows for straightforward importation of skilled labor, but are competent tech-workers available? A recent cover story by CWHK editor Sheila Lam (http://cw.com.hk/ezine/january/february-2012) indicates the IT labor pool is running dry.
Labor is a worldwide problem. Tectonic shifts shake the world's migrant-worker market as the West continues to suffer economic pain--about ten percent of Portugal's population now works overseas, primarily in former colonies like Brazil and Angola. But high salaries draw the best and the brightest, and the financial sector still offers the fattest pay packets. Engineering, network-design, datacenter operations? Dude, where's my iPad?
Someone has to securely connect the hotshot's mobile device to the company LAN so he or she can earn those plush commissions, but the suits may not see it that way. The cartoon-bird app works fine, so why doesn't the company-specific app? We already paid the developers so why do we need a new version?
Users tend to see the interface as be-all and end-all, ignoring the tech-efforts that created it and keep it updated. And management tends to pay most heed to those who improve their bottom line.
This could develop into an ongoing, serious problem. As tech becomes more decentralized (the laptop I'm writing this on has more raw computing power than a room-sized 1960s mainframe), IT-as-a-career is suffering. As more developers create apps allowing processes to be outsourced (not a bad thing--read Teresa Leung's "Industry Profile" stories for examples of Hong Kong entrepreneurs who use their tech-savvy to aid businesses in the HKSAR and elsewhere), in-house tech-workers are becoming less essential. And that may spin students in our ever-increasingly competitive educational environment into different career choices.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.