The Knowledge Economy: All Over Bar The Shouting

I occasionally pay my eldest son to do research work for me. I’ve been speaking a lot recently about knowledge – what it is, how we acquire it, and what we do with it. It’s been assumed that the over-developed countries are the global economic super-powers in the knowledge business. Not for much longer, in my opinion.

When the commodification of knowledge meets technology, you get another new twist to globalisation. Sites like Elance now allow anyone, anywhere to hire freelance ‘knowledge workers’ to do jobs at rates of pay which we can’t match in the West. Let’s say that your father has asked you to do some research on Knowledge Process Outsourcing (the umbrella term for this stuff). You simply post up the task on Elance (e.g. ‘legal research on patent ‘); within hours people are quoting their rates, showing their positive feed-back and their CVs. You then are faced with some pretty stark contrasts. US bidders quote min rates upwards of $100 per hour; highly qualified Indian Elancers will work for a minimum $10 per hour, and with very high levels of feed-back. Who are you going to hire?

The implications for not just economics (KPO is estimated to be worth $17bn next year, with 75% of that going to India) but also for higher education, are enormous. We’re familiar with call-centres being outsourced to the sub-continent, but what will UK and US graduates do for work in white collar sectors if it’s so much cheaper to hire Elancers?

By the way, Frank, if your reading this in Bangladesh, my son is delighted with the research you provided for him on outsourcing knowledge.

And I suppose, by inference, that I am too (maybe I’ll deal direct next time).

2 Responses to The Knowledge Economy: All Over Bar The Shouting

  1. James Cross says:

    Last Easter I helped my dad to make a website for his garden centre. He needed a digital version of the company logo, and I approached a few graphic designers in the UK. Hundreds of pounds to recreate it in photoshop, and a turnaround of a week.On Friday night I posted the job on The next day, a ‘team of 5 youths’ from India had done the job perfectly for $8 USD.

  2. David Price says:

    James:Striking evidence. I read a blog discussion where US participants were saying that the only way to compete, globally, was to ‘out-teach’ the Indians. The Cluetrain was nowhere to be seen.Really like your blog, have added to my list!

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