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Bridging the digital skills gap is a major challenge, not only for established companies in financial services, but also for fintech startups looking to grow and for countries looking to establish or expand their digital economies and fintech ecosystems.

Through the 10x1000 Tech for Inclusion program, Ant Group’s digital payment platform Alipay is working in collaboration with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and other partners to close the skills gap by developing and fostering a global community of fintech talent that can help drive digital economic growth.

Recognizing the importance of digital skills

Ant Group, which is the owner and operator of Alipay, understands the critical role of digital skills and capabilities. “In the last 17 years of our journey, we realized that digital skills – tech skills – are really the heart of what can drive this new era of digital growth and digital innovation,” explains Jason Pau, the Chief of Staff – International to the Chairman and CEO of Ant Group.

Recognition of the importance of tech skills has grown considerably over the last 18 months. “COVID-19 has…shown the world how important digital skills [are],” he says. But access to such skills – or the ability to develop them – is limited, particularly in less mature jurisdictions and emerging economies. “I think we all need to work harder, being in the business of fintech…to ensure that this digital divide doesn't persist.”

The 10x1000 Tech for Inclusion program

Ant Group was already working on ways to help close the digital divide before COVID-19 drove demand for digital tech talent through the roof globally. In 2018, Alipay, the leading digital platform in China, established the 10x1000 Tech for Inclusion program in partnership with the International Finance Corporation (IFC). The program’s mission is to enable learners to become drivers of digital economic growth.

Our vision for this program is to train 1,000 emerging tech talents and tech leaders – not only in emerging markets, but globally – each year for the next 10 years,” Pau shares. “Our hope is that by training this group of 1,000 each year, hopefully 10,000 over 10 years, that they will inspire hundreds of thousands and millions more.

Building a fintech community for the future

10x1000 Tech for Inclusion program activities align with key pain points for fintechs, such as fostering the mindset needed to adopt technologies like blockchain, AI, and cloud computing to drive outcomes like inclusion and sustainability, as well as, applying technology to solve real business problems. Harnessing the power of the global fintech community, the program aims to establish a truly global curriculum to help learners across the world advance.

The community element can’t be overstated. “We really think the power is going to be in the community,” Pau says. By fostering a global community of fintech practitioners and business leaders that help each other with business challenges and innovation, the program will likely have an impact and reach far beyond being a platform for learning.

Creating a foundation for success

In H1’21, 10x1000 Tech for Inclusion held its first full program online with 15 teams of 10 professionals each. As part of the program, each group was challenged to develop a capstone project centered around one of three key themes: sustainability, innovation, and inclusion. They had to work together to identify a problem and then come up with a solution or a product that could be taken to market.

“I’ll be very honest, we were absolutely surprised by the quality of the capstone projects,” Pau says. He provides examples of the different problems that groups tackled: How can we drive financial literacy access to youth? How can fintech be used to develop and support carbon trading? How can fintech be leveraged to reach the unbanked – individuals who haven’t been reached by traditional financial services? How can we help incumbent financial institutions leverage fintech to drive greater access?

The quality of the capstone projects and the ability of teams to work together so well highlights the vast potential for the 10x1000 Tech for Inclusion program over the long-term. “That really surprised us – the level of engagement between each of these learners,” Pau explains. He highlights the sense of collaboration between program participants and their passion for learning about the latest in technology innovations and how to deploy them to solve problems. “That’s something we’re really excited about…It really speaks to the potential for greater collaboration.”

Looking to the future: What’s next for the 10x1000 program?

While the success of the initial training program is exciting, Pau emphasizes that 10x1000 Tech for Inclusion is just getting started – and that they’re open to bringing more partners on board. “What we're really hoping to build here is a global community, an open community,” he explains. “We're looking for partners, whether it's on content…in terms of recruitment or in terms of offering this platform for learners around the world. We're also looking for strategic partners that believe in the same mission that we do [at] 10x1000.”

For more information on 10x100 Tech for Inclusion or to get involved, visit the website: www.10x1000.org

About Ant Group

    Ant Group aims to create the infrastructure and platform to support the digital transformation of the service industry. It strives to enable all consumers and small and micro businesses to have equal access to financial and other services that are inclusive, green and sustainable. Ant Group is the owner and operator of Alipay.

This article is featured in Pulse of Fintech H1’21.

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  • interview with Jason Pau, Chief of Staff,  International to the Chairman and CEO, Ant Group
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