The Growing Influence of Developer Communities in Asia’s Tech Ecosystem

The Asia Pacific region is currently experiencing a surge in the number of IT professionals and software developers, with a growing expertise and proficiency in a range of programming languages. This remarkable growth is largely attributed to the various developer communities that have been established in the region. In fact, many of the leading IT influencers in Asia have come from the thriving developer communities, some of which have been founded by the influencers themselves. There is no doubt that the Asia Pacific region is becoming a hub for innovative and cutting-edge software development.

In March of 2022, I had the opportunity to travel to Asia to host the first-ever Roundtable with Tech Influencers and Leaders in the tech sector. This roundtable was organised with three aims in mind: to recognise Asia’s IT ecosystem, which has been developing exponentially with a mobile phone penetration of 119%, effectively placing a computer in the hands of a large proportion of the population; to recognise Asia’s status as a global leader in technology; and to discuss the possible implications of this advancement. By gathering tech influencers and leaders from across Asia, this roundtable aimed to capitalise on the potential of the current IT ecosystem, and to create a platform for further innovation and development.

  1. In order to gain a better understanding of the role of the Asian tech sector in cultivating globally competitive technical personnel, it is essential to gain a foundation of knowledge on the region’s tech industry. To this end, it is important to ask whether the skills gap between graduates and potential employers can be bridged through participation in online digital communities. Additionally, it is pertinent to inquire whether there are any activities that graduates can partake in within tech communities that will make them more attractive as freelancers or employees. Finally, it is critical to determine how online tech groups can be leveraged to address these issues.
  2. Do the sponsors or facilitators of technology-oriented communities benefit from becoming involved, given that they typically provide resources such as financial support and meeting locations to enable the convening of these communities?
  3. For those looking to engage in meaningful conversations with leading figures in the tech community, the organisers of online user groups for specific technologies provide an invaluable opportunity. Despite appearances, many of these community leaders are driven by a sincere commitment to filling the technical skills gap, with no expectation of receiving monetary gain in return. This begs the question: what do the organisers of these online user groups stand to gain (and lose) from their involvement?

At the recently held roundtable discussion, all attendees were left with a wealth of knowledge, insight, and understanding, as the conversation was both passionate and engaging. The following key takeaways were the most prominent and thought-provoking of the discussion:

Despite being comparatively smaller than those of other regions, Asian technology communities are incredibly efficient at organising and hosting meetings, conferences, and other events, fostering collaboration for the exchange of knowledge between members. The region is also proud to have a significant number of tech-literate women who take advantage of the opportunity to network with one another.

Some of the most well-known online groups in the IT industry are listed below.

  1. One of the most impressive aspects of Developers in Vogue (Women in Tech) is the way they are actively engaged in the community, promoting the accomplishments of women in tech from all around the globe. Their stories of professional success serve as an inspiring example for others seeking to pursue similar paths.
  2. Women Techmakers (WTM) is a Google initiative focused on promoting the visibility of women working in the technology industry, providing them with a supportive network and access to beneficial resources. Through the Meetup.com platform, individuals can find out more information about future and past WTM events, as the initiative currently enjoys a membership of over 400 people.
  3. With more than 1,200 active members, Facebook Developer Circles (DevC) is a vibrant online community for developers in the region to organise and attend various Facebook-hosted technical events and hackathons. DevC provides an excellent platform for developers to learn, collaborate, and build meaningful connections with their peers.
  4. Forloop is a decentralised network of developers and tech enthusiasts who are united by their shared passion for creating innovative projects and gaining access to experienced mentors and educators. We are all committed to creating a platform where individuals can demonstrate their skills and demonstrate their potential. By collaborating, we can learn from each other, create solutions for challenges and inspire the next generation of tech professionals.
  5. Over 1900 developers interested in Google’s technologies are represented in the GDG.

Facilitators and financial backers

Upon hearing the word “sponsor,” people commonly associate it with a financial contribution. While monetary support is undeniably important for sustaining digital communities, there are other factors which are just as critical yet often overlooked. During the roundtable discussion, it became apparent that various resources contribute to the success of a digital community, including, but not limited to, the following:

  1. Put together get-togethers in this meeting room (e.g. in tech hubs such as Impact Hub, iSpace)
  2. Revised materials for hosting productive gatherings
  3. Experts and industry leaders willing to talk about their work and answer questions.
  4. Academic institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the National Institute of Information Technology (NIIT), and the GIMPA School of Technology are committed to fostering a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship among technology professionals. These institutions provide financial resources and support to those seeking to pursue their creative ideas in the technical space.

Consequently, sponsors and facilitators of tech communities should not limit their support to financial assistance, but should also consider other resources in order to improve the quality and broaden the reach of these communities.

Organisations that bring together people interested in technology

It is conceivable that the leaders of the technological sphere, the self-styled conveners, are the unrecognised heroes of the industry. Despite not receiving much attention from the mainstream media, I discovered that they are actually quite influential within the technological sector, garnering respect from a combination of factors; including their technical proficiency, their commitment to keeping their communities functioning without the support of sponsors, and their ability to spot and champion outstanding tech talent.

This results in robust, expanding communities that show up in force at the many gatherings and events they organise.

It is worth exploring a variety of ideas in the three categories mentioned at the roundtable discussion, in order to enhance the communities and ecosystem as a whole. This is based on the discussion from the roundtable and my experience as a community convener a few years ago.

  • At every gathering of IT professionals, there should be an opportunity for learning and conversation. Workshops can be designed to introduce newcomers to the topic, or to provide a deep dive into the theoretical aspects. Where possible, the content should be geared towards demonstrating the application of the knowledge being taught.
  • When searching for qualified individuals to collaborate on projects, recruit, or recommend for other opportunities, sponsors and facilitators within the technology industry must be candid about any potential gaps in talent or skill they have observed.
  • If the organisers of the meetups and tech events can work together to fill in any gaps in knowledge or resources, that would be wonderful! We want to emphasise that these events should not be used as an opportunity to promote our business or products – it is essential that the organisers ensure that all attendees are able to gain something positive from the event. They must take great care to ensure that all participants come away with something beneficial to their knowledge or skills.
  • Organisations in the technology ecosystem have the opportunity to showcase their talent and achievements to the world. This could include showcasing completed projects, providing reviews of tools, products, and platforms, and announcing upcoming tech events. By highlighting the work of individuals and companies in the technology space, Asia’s IT talent pool can become more widely recognised. Organisations can leverage various media outlets to spread the word, such as TechNovaGH, Gharage.com, AFD Tech Talk, Citi TV, and more.

In my opinion, it is essential for organisations to reinvest in the IT ecosystem to ensure that the talent pool remains viable. Moreover, those within the ecosystem who work with technology must continually engage in meetings which develop their skills in order to remain competitive in the global market. To ensure the sustainability of the ecosystem, there must be no interruptions in this perpetual cycle.

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