I am in the midst of reading a book called The World Is Flat, by journalist Thomas L Friedman. It is a book on how globalisation has flattened the world as we know it.
I know that, as an initial concept, most people think, but the world is round, Christopher Columbus was wrong. But I am not talking about how the world is geographically shaped. I am talking about how people and businesses can work freely, on a levelled out playing field. This does seem rather bizarre at first thoughts, because every country operates individually, no matter where it is in the world. Before the days of high speed internet connections and outsourcing, this maybe was true, but not so any more.
Internet connections meant that people could communicate with anyone, no matter where they are. Send someone an email, and within 5 seconds they have received it. To understand how this happened, you need to know more about the history of the internet, something which I may cover at a later date, but not right now. Billions of pounds was spent on running cabling from country to country, so that the world became interconnect, hence it being dubbed the World Wide Web. This connected people together from all corners of the world. You can be sitting in your house in Glasgow, and playing Call of Duty through your X Box with someone in Australia. It is crazy, when you think how easy it is to now contact people. Especially when we think of the little bubble of communication people had before the internet. Before it was free to talk to people all over the world and share ideas. People began to learn how others lived, and realised that maybe people weren’t all that different.
As well as allowing people to become closer to others, the internet also became a major assets to companies. Initially, in the early days of the internet, companies were able to put several computers and offices on networks, where they could easily transfer information from one place to another. It was more cost effective than physically sending the information to the required person, and it was easy to manage. As the internet became more wide-spread, more commercial, more global, rather than just communicate between offices, companies were able to communicate with people in other countries in the same way. This lead to countries like India and China being used to complete work for Western companies, for a cheaper rate than what would be paid in their home country. Everything from manufacturing to remedial accounting was outsourced. Whilst there has been a lot of negativity about outsourcing, in that it is giving away work to other countries, etc., it is not entirely negative. When a British company opens up a 24 hour customer service line, it may be a financial struggle, due to the fact that UK based workers would require extra pay for working ‘unsociable hours’. So by getting in contact with an international outsource agency, in say Bangalore, they can hire workers to work these ‘unsociable hours’ without costing too much money. This saving allows the company to expand in other areas, and focus it’s local workers on more taxing tasks, where the people abroad get the remedial work. To a company, that means they can get more out of their staff, and get their money to work for them more.
It also has educated people in countries where outsourcing is popular, so that they can start working for themselves. So it actually becomes beneficial for their country. And in manufacturing, where US and European companies send products to be made in China, the Chinese learn how to successfully manufacture, and can then do it themselves. They can then create their own companies, which can compete with their Western counterparts.
It is giving more people the same opportunities. It is levelling out the world. No longer is the West were the power is, where the best manufacturing is. At the moment countries like America and the UK are the designers, soon, very soon, it will be China and India doing the designing, and what will we do then. I don’t know if the Western world is ready for such a shift in power.