Outsourcing blurs borders

Since the late 1980s, the western world has seen a steady erosion of the institutions that have traditionally helped to define one nation from another. Many currency units have disappeared, most notably in the countries that are today part of the European Union. Today, the Euro is accepted in most major European countries, while units such as the French Franc start to fade into the fog of history.

Borders have begun to take on a completely new meaning from that of even the 1970s, and Canadians don’t have to go far to see evidence of this trend. Spurred on by an ever-increasing congestion at border crossings to the U.S., the federal governments of both countries are constantly seeking ways to make it easier to get through them.

Reciprocity agreements, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, have withdrawn a key nationalistic element from many cross-border business processes, essentially dropping Canadian and American manufacturers into the same competitive arena where flags are needless and irrelevant.

One commonality to all these developments is that they have helped to blur the lines that separate one friendly nation from another. Another commonality is that they have all been driven by the public sector. Given the enormity of these shifts away from such deep-rooted and emotionally charged institutions, as well as the traditionally slow pace of governments in getting projects of this magnitude done, it is amazing how much has changed in the space of only two decades.

Today, there is another movement afoot that will add to this erosion of borders and the nationalistic mindset – and it’s being driven by the much more agile and determined private sector. What’s more, some of its biggest proponents will come right from the North American IT sector.

The outsourcing of various parts of the IT process to poorer nations where labour costs are staggeringly lower than they are in the west is gaining momentum. In many cases, the savings are so pronounced that large companies are willing to transfer parts of the operations to the other side of the world.

Such barriers are already beginning to crumble, however, as employees in countries such as India and China begin to welcome the higher wages and improved working conditions that the Western employers are able to offer.

We can expect to see the outsourcing process implemented in much shorter order than the other movements mentioned above, simply because the private sector is steering the ship. When profits and shareholder contentedness are at stake, businesses don’t have the same luxury of time as does the public sector.

This process is happening and it will continue to happen, because in Western society, big business invariably gets what it wants, or at least a close facsimile. What impact the outsourcing trend will have on cultures and jobs is not yet fully known. The first step to dealing with its impact, however, is realizing that it’s happening. And it certainly is.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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