Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Flat World? Economic Forces Influencing Education

It seems like most in North America are afraid of "offsourcing." What is offsourcing? Offsourcing is simply outsourcing work, services, or the production of a particular product offshore or across the globe to a country like India, or China, because they can deliver the product or service for cheaper than in America. I realize the whole issue of offsourcing is certainly not a popular notion, especially with the news filled with doom and gloom stories of people losing their jobs because of the recession that has hit North America. This past week, the Canadian government introduced the new federal budget with $40 billion dollars worth of spending initiatives to bolster the economy and pull it out of recession. The United States is discussing similar measures to prevent the auto industry from collapsing and driving the American economy into the ground further after the recent real estate fiasco that buried a number of US financial institutions. So I can understand why North Americans are a little nervous and a little less than enthusiastic to share in India's exuberance of new found riches with the thousands of jobs transplanted from the US or Canada to call centres in India.

However, we can look at the present situation with a doom and gloom attitude, or see this as an opportunity for us to get better at what we do, and seize further opportunities. I like what Rajesh Rao said, as quoted by Freidman (2005), instead of complaining about outsourcing the western world would "be better off thinking about how you can raise the bar and raise yourselves into doing something better." I think this is the right perspective. We can complain and bellyache about the situation, or we can do something about fixing it; making it better. The reality is, people want to have hope. I can barely watch the news for all of its negativity and hopelessness. I want to hope for possibilities of a better future for our First Nations people. Why are so many in Canada enamoured with Barack Obama, especially in our First Nation world? Because he consistently speaks of hope, people want to have hope for tomorrow. I believe that the media is in a large way responsible for the recent recession, because the consistent message from the media has been one of mass hysteria mingled with fear mongering ultimately undermining people's confidence to invest, spend, and buy. What we need to hear is the good that is coming from a development of a global economy.

Recently, I watched a video on by Hans Rosling, (2007) New insights on poverty and life around the world, where he elegantly demonstrates how the global economy is producing tremendous improvements in the lives of people around the world, especially those in developing world. Countries like India now have more educated people in the field of technology and software development comparable to the US and Canada than ever before, and yet charging a quarter the cost to have the same thing done in North America.

Recently, we were commissioned to build an interactive game by the Office of the Treaty Commission here in Saskatchewan. We gladly accepted the opportunity to develop such a learning tool for students to learn about the Treaties in Canada though the entertaining medium of an online game. We approached various gaming companies in Canada, who never returned our calls. We then turned to the United States, and were shown a little more interest, but prices were out of reach for the budget. Finally, we turned to a gaming company in Pakistan, which did the work for us and were absolutely wonderful to work with. What that experience taught me was that we need to be far more competitive in North America, and not so begrudging of those who do the work more affordably and with little complaint. Why shouldn't they profit from the opportunity? Wealth should not be restricted to Canada or the US.

I hate seeing the poverty in the media of people starving, children dying, and HIV destroying families. I want for people around the world to have an opportunity to prosper. The virtues of caring and kindness cannot be limited to my world, but must include a global perspective. Hytten and Bettez (2008) propose we need to be globally aware and empathetic so that we can be responsible global citizens caring for everyone and our environment. So if a little offsourcing takes place to make another person's world better, that's a bonus. I guess I have to be better at what I do then as well.
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