Role of information and communication technologies in Flattening the World

ICT (information and communication technologies) is increasingly reducing barriers among States, individuals and corporations by creating a more economic interdependence and global integration which in turn makes the globe a dynamic place. Since the development of technology the world has consistently been made smaller from time to time by reducing the physical, economical and socio-political barriers thus turning the world into what scholars refer to as a global village. We cannot talk about ICT and its role in flattening of the world without touching on globalization.

Globalization in this case refers to the increasing free flow of readily available technology, ideas, market and people. In the book “The World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman he argues that ICT and global integration have enables countries like China and India to develop the fastest growing economies in the world. In his book Thomas starts us off by telling us he realizes the world is flat when he visits a campus in India. Friedman is impressed by the campus’s advanced technology such as the glass-and-steel buildings and large flat-screen televisions.

The company’s CEO, tells Friedman that the playing field has been leveled; now countries like India can compete for global knowledge. Friedman realizes that the world is flat, which fills him with both dread and excitement. Friedman argues that we are now in the midst of Globalization 3. 0 is a period in which the world shrinks from small to tiny, flattening to such a degree that individuals can collaborate and compete globally. From this we can see that ICT is now making its way into developing countries and is playing a big part in the development of education.

ICT has opened up the market system in the globe. He explains this from the fall of the Berlin wall which he says opened up alternatives to free market capitalism and opened up places like India, Brazil, China and Russia. Importantly, the fall of the Berlin Wall allowed for the concept of the world as a single market from which knowledge and economic policies could flow more easily. The internet has many roles, when Netscape went public, many things were made easier through it especially communication via network.

Internet and World Wide Web technology, which Friedman differentiates. The Internet (which connects computers) and the Web (which houses information) came together to connect people, globally. The first phase, “the Apple-PC-Windows phase” allowed individuals to interact with a contained network, such as a group of people sharing an office and phase two “the Internet-e-mail-browser phase” allowed anyone with this technology to interact with anyone else who had the same technology. Different softwares have come up that enable people co-relate in businesses and across the world.

These softwares are referred to as work flow softwares which allowed more people to collaborate within and between businesses and continents, at a faster pace than ever before. For these separate entities to communicate they needed interoperable software; this became possible with the rise of standards. Web-standards such as XML, HTML, HTTP, and SOAP eliminated the “Tower of Babel” roadblock and allowed everyone to speak the same language. Uploading allows individuals or communities to put information on the Web.

Currently there is virtually nothing in existence that we cannot find on the web. The flat-world platform has allowed these individuals and communities to produce “really complex things” with much less hierarchy and money than before. Friedman explores three examples of uploading: community-developed software, Wikipedia, and blogging/ podcasting. Friedman argues that uploading appeals to a basic human need to participate and be heard. Uploading has provided the world with a platform we can share our ideas, thoughts and innovations.

Through uploading knowledge is disseminated across the globe thus making the internet a single library. ICT has enabled creation of employment through outsourcing. Outsourcing refers to contracting with another company or person to do a particular function. We can understand this better by looking at how Friedman quickly details how the United States benefited from India’s seven Institutes of Technology (IIT), created in 1951. These highly-competitive schools, which are subsidized by tax dollars, churn out highly-qualified, highly-skilled professionals in need of jobs.

Y2K created jobs for Indian software engineers because a large number of techs were needed to remedy the millennium bug. Moreover, the fiber optic boom, which occurred at the same time, allowed any “service, call center, business support operation, or knowledge work that could be digitized” to be outsourced. Thus, the dot-com bust resulted in jobs for Indians, who would work for less money than Americans and could perform the tasks in India because of their education as well as the technology of the PC, the Internet, and fiber optics. ICT has lead to development of developing countries through offshoring.

Offshoring is when a company moves one of its factories to another country (not just a specific task, as with outsourcing) for various reasons, such as cheaper labor and resources, fewer trade barriers, and fewer taxes. When China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, offshoring reached new heights because China now had to comply with international law and standard business practices, therefore assuring investors that establishing factories in China would be financially beneficial. ICT has developed a customer-retail relationship and a supply-retail relationship.

Friedman describes supply-chaining as “a method of collaborating horizontally–among suppliers, retailers, and customers–to create value. ” Friedman describes how supply chains both flatten the world and are enabled by its flattening. As an example, Friedman considers Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retail company, which makes nothing. Wal-Mart is essentially a hyper-efficient supply chain. For example, during the Christmas season, Hewlett-Packard sells four-hundred thousand computers each day through Wal-Mart’s four thousand stores.

Continuing to cite Wal-Mart, Friedman considers the costs and benefits of supply chains. ICT has also enabled insourcing. Insourcing refers to Delegating a job to someone within a company, as opposed to someone outside. This makes the different services provided efficient and less time consuming. Friedman considers UPS’s role in insourcing. For example, if a Toshiba laptop breaks while under warranty, the customer can drop the computer off at a UPS store to have it shipped to Toshiba. But what actually happens is that UPS repairs the laptop in Louisville in a UPS workshop.

A few years ago, Toshiba was criticized for taking too long to repair broken computers, so Toshiba collaborated with UPS to make the process go faster. ICT also enables knowledge sharing through Google, Yahoo! , and MSN Web Search. Friedman defines in-forming as “searching for knowledge” and having the resources to become “your own self-directed and self-empowered researcher, editor, and selector of entertainment without having to go to the library or the movie theater or through network television.

Friedman argues that world becomes flatter as resources like Google become more readily available. As knowledge becomes more accessible (Google can already be searched in 100 languages) more people become empowered. Friedman also considers how this knowledge jeopardizes our privacy. Friedman claims that it will be increasingly difficult to keep information about our pasts private as we leave electronic footprints behind. ICT has enabled wireless communication. Friedman calls “the steroids.

Friedman calls certain technologies steroids (digital, mobile, personal, and virtual), because they augment and strengthen other flatteners. An example Friedman offers is voice over Internet protocol, or VoIP. This service allows customers to make unlimited, local and long-distance, phone calls through the internet for the cost of local calls. This will revolutionize telecommunications because companies will no longer be able to charge for distance and time. Connecting via telephone, anywhere in the world, will become extremely cheap.

We can therefore conclude conclusively that the world has not only become flat but also it has shrunken into a tiny homestead. The development of ICT has not only made communication easier but also made sending of information and items across the globe quicker thanks to DHL, UPS, FedEx and other courier companies. This has made our world so tiny it’s not only better but it’s awesome knowing very well close to becoming a home due to ICT and globalization. This two forces, ICT and globalization could possibly be the answer to peace in the world.