Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Is the World Flat?

I finally finished reading The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman. It was an extremely enlightening and educational read. Unfortunately, I do not read enough non-fiction, but I am trying to expose myself to more in the future.

The main premise of this book is the discussion of globalization and how this phenomenon has essentially leveled the playing field between countries. Outsourcing, economic diversity and the rapid rate of technological advancements (primarily the Internet) have all contributed to what Friedman describes as the "flattening of the world."

Although I do not agree with all of Friedman's opinions or points of view, I did find them compelling. The fact that more and more of American goods are being made overseas (look at all of the toy recalls from China) is a reflection on the current state of affairs in many countries. Interestingly, more and more young adults in India and China are obtaining degrees in engineering, math and science then in the United States. As a result, young adults in the United States are not staying competitive and often are losing their jobs to individuals overseas.

What I found to be eye opening was how much work is actually distributed to places such as Bangalore and New Delhi where call centers abound. The phones are ringing off the hook in places like Bangalore, India to answer questions such as "where is my lost baggage," "how do I hook up my wireless Internet," or "how do I put together this toy." Sometimes it is frustrating for consumers who have trouble understanding the person at the other end, but companies such as Delta Airlines are finding that they are saving millions by outsourcing. Individuals, in India, who are working for the call centers are also often happy to find jobs that offer them decent pay and often benefits.

The advancement of the Internet is another phenomenon which has made it virtually seamless for countries to communicate. In an instant individuals and companies can make contact, participate in virtual meetings and use live web cams to keep up on every day business operations. These advancements were something which were not around 15-20 years ago. Every day more and more web pages are being created and more and more people are becoming "virtually connected." While there are a plethora of pitfalls to technology, overall it has leveled the playing field for many and made access to information more equitable.
The World is Flat is the type of book that I would recommend reading in segments. Each chapter is chalk full of anecdotes and personal stories, which makes the read fun. It is not just a long litany of statistics and facts. Friedman has updated this book a couple of times, so make sure you read the most recent version when you check it out of the library!
Finally, check out Friedman's website at: http://www.thomaslfriedman.com/


Jaime said...

Hey Sara,

One positive contributor to "world-flattening" is the concept of microfinancing in third-world countries using first-world donors. Kiva.org is a great example of this -- people can make loans of as little as $25 to specific individuals. Several donors together finance one person's loan, which is dispersed through a microfinance company. It's really exciting to see people from three different continents working together to meet the needs of someone on yet another continent, and it's a loan, not charity -- so it encourages independence and self-sufficiency. The founders of Kiva.org note that the lines between have and have-not are blurring as people from India or Mexico loan to people in Bolivia or Cambodia. I think it's fascinating.

Sarah said...

I definitely agree! Thank you for sharing your link with me!