Tech & Work

Brazil, China, India: A new order that will put our IT to work

These emerging giants will end up generating business for the West...

We must come to terms with the rise of Brazil, China and India because the jobs of tomorrow will involve selling products and services to these emerging powerhouses, says Mark Kobayashi-Hillary.

Last week I attended the launch of Philippe Legrain's new book, Aftershock, at the London School of Economics. Legrain is an economist who has become something of a media expert on immigration since his last book Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them struck a chord with radio phone-in shows the world over.

His new book analyses how the world economy might recover from the crisis of the past couple of years. In the book he makes some interesting points that should chime with readers of silicon.com because it's our industry that is shaping most of this change.

Legrain's key points are:

  1. The banking system is broken.
  2. The deficit has to be reduced.
  3. Healthier more balanced growth needs to be encouraged.
  4. We need to adjust to the growth of India, China and Brazil.
  5. We need to cope with climate change.

The banking system is a challenge for the new government to worry about, but Legrain points out that in countries such as the UK and US, banks had been propped up by the state. So how are they going to function in future when they know a bailout will always save them?

The second and third points are of less interest to the technology audience. But it's worth commenting that when Legrain talks about healthier growth, he really means that you are not going to be able to speculate in no-risk, buy-to-let property in a more stable economy.

So that brings us to points four and five. Taking the final point first, there is an immense clean-tech industry that is springing up across the world. Here in the UK, there is a strong cluster of companies developing in this sector in the North East. Newcastle really does have a lot more to offer than just stag nights and brown ale.

We have to get used to the ascendancy of what we might have called, until recently, developing nations. It's hard to determine the right terminology to use when we are within a decade of China being the largest economy on the planet, with India and Brazil following suit and surpassing lowly western European nations such as ours.

How do we get used to that? Even now, there is a constant fear that our jobs are vanishing to these countries. India is perceived as a particularly large threat to the IT industry in the UK. The Harvey Nash CIO survey released last week said two-thirds of all CIOs involved in offshoring are doing it in India. But the third most popular country for offshoring was the UK - strange, but true.

The IT industry has in many ways led the world into a new era of work that no longer respects borders. It is often the skilled technologists who find it possible to move around the world, relocating to the work, and it's the underlying technology that makes it possible for work to move from a client to where the skills are available.

Sociologist Manuel Castells calls this the network society. Critics of outsourcing might call it a broken society. Yet the reality is far simpler. The jobs of tomorrow won't be the same as yesterday. The jobs of tomorrow will involve selling products and services to India, China and Brazil - the economic engines of the 21st century.

Mark Kobayashi-Hillary is the author of Who Moved my Job? and Global Services. He lectures at London South Bank University.

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