Friday, January 23, 2009

Global Non-Flat World of ICT

Geoff WalshamProfessor Geoff Walsham, from University of Cambridge, gave an entertaining and informative seminar on "ICTs and Global Working in a Non-Flat World" at the ANU in Canberra, 22 January 2009. Professor Walsham rejected Thomas Friedman's hypothesis that ICT has removed barriers to doing business globally. He argues that cultural issues create barriers to a seamless global workforce and this provides opportunities for research. Professor Walsham referred to his paper ‘ICTs and global working in a non-flat world’. Perhaps going against his hypothesis, it happens that the paper is part of the IFIP Digital Library, provided by the ANU and is part of a volume edited by Catherine Middleton,who talked about broadband at the ANU last November.
This paper rejects the hypothesis of Thomas Friedman that ICT-enabled globalization is driving us toward a flat world. Instead, it is argued that the world remains uneven, full of seams, culturally heterogeneous, locally specific, inequitable, not well-integrated and constantly changing. This argument is supported by an analysis of three areas of ICT-enabled global working, namely global software outsourcing, global IS roll-out, and global virtual teams. The paper then builds on these analyses to put forward an agenda for future IS research on ICTs and global working based on three research themes: identity and cross-cultural working; globalization, localization and standardization; and power, knowledge, and control. The paper concludes that the area of ICTs and global working offers the IS field a major research opportunity to make a significant contribution to our understanding of a set of crucial issues in our more globalized world.

Keywords Flat world - globalization - global software outsourcing - global IS roll-out - global virtual teams - IS research agenda - identity - cross-cultural working - standardization - power - knowledge - control

From: ‘ICTs and global working in a non-flat world’, Walsham, G., 2008, in IFIP International Federation for Information Processing, Volume 267, Information Technology in the Service Economy: Challenges and Possibilities for the 21st Century, eds. Barrett, M., Davidson, E., Middleton, C., and DeGross, J. (Boston: Springer), pp. 13-25.

Cover art for Outsourced DVDProfessor Walsham talked about his extensive experience looking at India. For those who have no experience of this, perhaps the film Outsourced would be a painless introduction to some of the issues. This is a romantic comedy about an American sent to India to train staff in the outsourced call center.

It occurred to me that Professor Walsham's analysis could be usefully applied to carbon trading systems now being set up. This is a complex arrangement of state, national and international ICT systems, involving technical, cultural and legal issues. The Australian Department of Climate Change alone is reported to have 20 new IT projects, with tenders for the CPRS auction platform, architecture, systems integration, financial management, identity/access, business intelligence systems, web portal design and hosting services to be announced a few weeks.

1 comment:

Tom Worthington said...

In another flat world coincidence, Thomas Friedman, author of ‘The World is Flat’ was a speaker at the "Flat Classroom Conference" I took part in over the weekend.