Globalisation Poses Urgent Questions

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ICT professionals tend to view globalisation as an inevitable and positive force for change. But, asks Simon Perry, what sort of a world does it get us involved in?

The benefits of “globalisation” and “international expansion” are still casually exhorted by senior executives in the ranks of the ICT vendor community.

Some plan to consolidate data centres down from a far flung set of legacy installations to a strategic half a dozen. Some consider offshoring core processing and call centres to India and Eastern Europe, which have a large and cheap labour pool of skilled (or trainable) workers, low property prices, and favourable tax schemes.

Developing countries also provide laxer laws and employee expectations of what comprises a reasonable and safe working environment is generally much lower than in the US or in the EU. The question is – do we know where we’re going with all this?

I recently heard an executive from a large services vendor talking about his company’s international expansion plans. There was little evidence he was considering the social, economic, judicial and leadership state of the countries he had lined up as current or potential sites for data centres and programming teams.

It was globalisation in a vacuum.

I am not making a direct criticism of that vendor or the particular executive, but rather a general observation of the industry, so the vendor itself can remain anonymous for now. However it is relevant that his current or future expansion targets included Mexico, Thailand, India and Russia.

These four countries are wonderfully representative of why we need to pay more attention to what is actually going on the world, if we are to credibly talk about globalisation.

Mexico: Drug Cartels Outgun The State

Mexico doesn’t just suffer a yearly influx of intoxicated American college students, it also teeters on the edge of being one of the world’s largest narco-states. Drug crime is endemic. You are three times more likely to be murdered in Mexico than in the United States.

Corruption at all levels is the norm. Police forces are undermanned and underfunded, and vastly outgunned by drug running cartels – who reportedly give police officers the choice between accepting a bribe or being shot dead: “Plata o Plomo” in the local lingo.

According to the country’s National Human Rights Commission only about one tenth of crime is ever actually reported, so it is also obvious that a vast iceberg of problems lies beneath the crime statistics and that the problem is far worse than the official data indicates. Mexico lacks mature and explicit laws regarding cyber crime, and has poor law enforcement capability as far as technology skills and cyber investigative techniques.