Peter de Jager is a provocative Speaker,
Writer and Consultant. His primary focus in on how we manage change,
technology and the future.
In addition to speaking at conferences
worldwide, he also writes monthly columns for CIO Magazine and
His goal is always to question what we
think is so, and in so doing perhaps open up new opportunities.
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Give a man a fish;
you have fed him for a day.
Teach a man to fish;
and you have fed him for a lifetime.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) consists of 184 member countries. Their goals include the fostering of economic growth, high levels of employment and the worldwide reduction of poverty. These goals are achieved primarily through three strategies; Loans (the giving of fish), Technical Assistance (teaching them to fish) and Surveillance to ensure adherence to prescribed monetary policies and best practices.
In other words, in the spirit of Confucius' advice, we created and support the IMF in order to elevate the global standard of living. Our good intentions are bearing fruit - here's one example.
In 2002, Stanley Fischer, once the First Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund addressed the "India Today Conclave" in New Delhi. The focus of his talk was India's economic imperative to break out of their "Third World Status". In his presentation he made the following observation regarding India's economic progress throughout the 1990s;
Economic growth (in India) averaged 6 percent a year, led by strong advances in the services sector. The IT industry has proven particularly dynamic and is now of global renown - and its success proves that India is perfectly capable of competing and succeeding at the top international levels.
While the IMF is willing to congratulate India for a lesson well learned, others have a bit of a problem with their new found ability. It would seem that while we claim we want them to fish on their own, we don't want them to fish near us, or sell us any of the newly caught fish.
To put it plainly, the IT industry in Canada, the USA, and the UK don't really want India, or anyone else for that matter, to actually deploy their new found IT ability. We are happy to support the IMF, but the last thing we want is for these upstart Third World countries to compete with us at international levels. Specifically, we don't want our work going to other countries.
The notion that "work" belongs to a country is both peculiar and, based on past historical practices, hypocritical in the extreme.
- When we built the railroads in North America, we exported work to China by importing
cheap Chinese labour. To restate this, most railroad work did not go to either US or
Canadian Citizens, it went to foreign Nationals. A large portion of the miniscule wages
paid out found its way back to China.
- I live in Canada, a country more than capable of building our own cars, yet many people
import US, German, Japanese or Italian made products. They have in a sense, via their
import, taken work away from Canadians and given it to foreign workers.
- Most PCs in the world use the MS Windows product. Every copy of Windows exported
from the US, takes programming work away from foreign workers.
Our behaviours demonstrate that where work gets done is determined by a combination of the nature of the work and the cost of shipping the finished product to where it is needed. And, that who gets to do the work is determined by a combination of the quality of finished product and cost of labour involved. The "where" and "who" of work is determined more by economics than by geography.
To make the situation even plainer...
Microsoft Inc. could, if Bill Gates wanted to, shift his operations to anywhere on the globe tomorrow... who owns the work which would follow his decision? The company? Or the country, state, city in which the work was done yesterday? The only way to stop Gates from doing this would be to clap him in irons, and even then his corporation could execute his plans without his physical presence.
If we consider the power of modern telecommunications and ignore certain types of physical work, then it is obvious that White collar work is geographically ambivalent. Work doesn't care if it is done downtown, down south or down under.
It is also ambivalent to both political and legal constraints. For example; I do not have a work permit to work in country "X", yet I can visit and sit in a hotel room and write this article, or a novel, and get paid for my work by my editor in Canada. I've also written articles in Canada and sold them to magazines around the world. In both cases I have technically worked in country "X" and while I have broken the letter of their law, I am literally above/outside their laws.
It is not just a matter of enforcement; it is a matter of definition. Is writing an article "work"? How about writing code? Or thinking about a given problem and putting those thoughts in a report and e-mailing it to a client located somewhere else on this tiny planet? How about answering a long distance phone call?
More to the point... how do you stop someone from selling their ability to answer that phone to a foreigner?
Following the old and tired tradition for making predictions at this time of the year...
1) The rising tide against offshore outsourcing will continue through 2004 and beyond.
2) Western Politicians will enact legislation to counter the so called loss of work.
3) Companies will react by creating separate companies in other countries to service their
need to achieve the corporate goals of productivity and efficiency.
4) India and all the other countries looking to increase their standard of living by climbing the
ladder of technology will do so and there is nothing the West can do to stop it.
In short, Third World countries have learned to fish... even worse, they're using a Net to work.. (ouch... bad pun. I'll go sit in the corner for a month.)
© 2005, Peter de Jager –
Peter is passionate about change, how it affects both individuals and
organizations and allows them to grow and prosper. To contact him, and
host internal seminars on Change Management visit www.technobility.com
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