Skip to main content
The Boys from Bangalore

Last month, I warned companies that the urge to create a ‘Takeaway economy', an unholy rush to outsource skilled jobs to the cheapest bidder, was likely to have a longer-term damaging effect on our economy. Outsourcing at present levels can’t avoid a social consequence further down the road and without a doubt, the attractiveness of shifting jobs to the Indian subcontinent, undermines the confidence of the knowledge workers who are responsible for our future economic wellbeing and the flexibility of a labour market that has made the UK a more competitive and productive environment than any of its European neighbors.

Perhaps I sound as if I’m protesting against the forces of globalization, a futile exercise, because multi-national companies will chase their profits and their cost-savings across the globe. But today, I read that Hewlett Packard is to transfer “accounting support functions currently conducted by former Compaq staff to Bangalore, with the loss of twenty UK jobs”.

Hewlett Packard has apparently concentrated its internal financial services into three Global Business Centres, located in India, Mexico and Spain over the last two years and Compaq's internal accounting operations are next.

And why not, you might ask? It’s a drop in the ocean, the Tequila is cheap and after all, times are tight and HP is no different to anyone else, it needs to keep its costs down and its share price high and if British workers are more expensive than their Bangalore equivalents, then tough.

But last time I commented on this issue, I received a rash of emails from people telling me “That all that glitters is not gold”. In many cases, outsourcing works well but as one programmer told me, the standard of coding he has seen coming out of his company’s Indian partner has been quite abysmal. Now I can’t tell you whether this is true or not but I do know that aggressive Indian-based companies want a larger slice of the UK pie and our public sector, one of the biggest tells me, is high on their wish list.

The radical alternative is of course a form of ‘protectionism’ but in a global economy that will turn us into the IT equivalent of North Korea, so it’s hardly an option. No, I’m asking government and business to consider the potential impact of outsourcing ‘knowledge-based’ jobs much more carefully. As an economy, we, like our European neighbours, are attempting to poach skilled workers from other countries and we can’t find enough teachers, doctors and nurses. But it’s a revolving door and I’m sure many of us would like to know how many IT or knowledge-based jobs have been lost over the last five years as a consequence of outsourcing and ill considered legislation like IR45.

In ten years time, what will Britain produce? We’re no longer a great manufacturing economy and even Bentleys are expensive BMWs. Without our North Sea oil revenues we would have felt the pain a long time ago and the oil is running out, so what’s left? Financial services? DIY? Tourism?

Government talks a great deal about our future as a knowledge economy but we're seemingly happy for the knowledge costs to live in Mexico or India? Forgive me but I don’t believe this will work and I worry that the ill-considered enthusiasm for cheap outsourcing will ultimately be the equivalent of shooting this country in its socio-economic foot.


Popular posts from this blog

Civilisational Data Mining

It’s a new expression I haven’t heard before. ‘Civilisational data mining.’

Let me start by putting it in some context. Every character, you or I have typed into the Google search engine or Facebook over the last decade, means something, to someone or perhaps ‘something,’ if it’s an algorithm.

In May 2014, journalists revealed that the United States National Security Agency, the NSA, was recording and archiving every single cell-phone conversation that took place in the Bahamas. In the process they managed to transform a significant proportion of a society’s day to day interactions into unstructured data; valuable information which can of course be analysed, correlated and transformed for whatever purpose the intelligence agency deems fit.

And today, I read that a GOP-hired data company in the United States has ‘leaked’ personal information, preferences and voting intentions on… wait for it… 198 million US citizens.

Within another decade or so, the cost of sequencing the human genome …

The Nature of Nurture?

Recently, I found myself in a fascinating four-way Twitter exchange, with Professor Adam Rutherford and two other science-minded friends The subject, frequently regarded as a delicate one, genetics and whether there could exist an unknown but contributory genetic factor(s) or influences in determining what we broadly understand or misunderstand as human intelligence.

I won’t discuss this subject in any great detail here, being completely unqualified to do so, but I’ll point you at the document we were discussing, and Rutherford’s excellent new book, ‘A Brief History of Everyone.”

What had sparked my own interest was the story of my own grandfather, Edmond Greville; unless you are an expert on the history of French cinema, you are unlikely to have ever hear of him but he still enjoys an almost cult-like following for his work, half a century after his death.

I've been enjoying the series "Genius" on National Geographic about the life of Albert Einstein. The four of us ha…
The Mandate of Heaven

eGov Monitor Version

“Parliament”, said my distinguished friend “has always leaked like a sieve”.

I’m researching the thorny issue of ‘Confidence in Public Sector Computing’ and we were discussing the dangers presented by the Internet. In his opinion, information security is an oxymoron, which has no place being discussed in a Parliament built upon the uninterrupted flow of information of every kind, from the politically sensitive to the most salacious and mundane.

With the threat of war hanging over us, I asked if MPs should be more aware of the risks that surround this new communications medium? More importantly, shouldn’t the same policies and precautions that any business might use to protect itself and its staff, be available to MPs?

What concerns me is that my well-respected friend mostly considers security in terms of guns, gates and guards. He now uses the Internet almost as much as he uses the telephone and the Fax machine and yet the growing collective t…