01 Feb 2011 BPO And How Twitter Became A Basic Human Right
Business Process Outsourcing and Twitter don’t seem connected and indeed, if a year ago I’d have used those two in the same sentence, even more people would have thought I’d lost the plot.
At about the turn of the century when the internet and anything vaguely related to eCommerce was like gold dust, I described internet access as a basic human right. At the time, people laughed. And why not? It was a joke – but it was a joke with a serious point. If the internet was such a lucrative source of wealth for investors it would also become an essential means of access to goods and services to the people.
It’s accepted wisdom now and while the the United Nations hasn’t yet adopted internet access as a basic human right, the truth of the vital importance of internet access is becoming increasingly apparent when we see events unfold in Egypt.
Governments take note. You can deny people the vote. You can police the streets with tanks, but cut off twitter and the people will rise against you! It’s not a joke. Access to telecommunications is valued as much as basic necessities. In some parts of Africa where children are still having to walk 2 km to fetch fresh water they can get a mobile phone signal. The global communication infrastructure that we’ve built over the last 100 years or so isn’t just important – it is critical and the other thing that Egypt has made abundantly clear is – it is fragile.
On a business level too the implications of our dependency on the internet is made even clearer. Egypt had recently become the BPO location of choice for many organizations and yes, I guess that political unrest would have been factored into the risk assessment but turning off the internet? Who predicted that?
Our high dependence on the global telecommunication infrastructure and its now increasingly obvious fragility is adding to the list of reason to repatriate business processes. Think about it. Global manufacturing supply chains grind to a halt because of a volcano. A terrorist attack in Mumbai – one of the busiest BPO centers in the world – that was worrying – and now Egypt.
When businesses outsource their processes they they don’t intend to outsource control. But when that control is critically dependent on things that are out of your control then they’re not in control. The lure of cost saving born out of labor arbitrage has blinded many businesses to the risks and I wonder how soon we’ll see the sun setting on offshore BPO.