Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Asi identity in the age of globalization (2)

(Commencement address to the graduating class, Class of 2012, Sibale Academy, 23 March 2012, Concepcion Parish Church, Concepcion, Romblon)

The buzzword of today is “globalization”. As it suggests, globalization indicates the very close interaction between peoples and countries of the world in trade and commerce, culture, education, and communication. Globalization has shrunk the world not just from size large to size small, but has also transformed it from round to “flat” because of technological advances which has given rise to new and faster ways of doing things.

You are already familiar with this technological phenomenon. The mobile phone, the Internet, and the computer are just few of the many technological marvels that have shaped the world and have “flattened” it.

Thirty years ago when I graduated from the Sibale Academy, my classmates and I looked forward with anticipation and joy to the arrival of the weekend. We used to gather under the big acacia tree beside the road at the school’s gate during Friday afternoons and there we proclaimed: “T-G-I-F”! “Thank God, It’s Friday.” T-G-I-F.

Today, in your generation, T-G-I-F has acquired a whole new meaning. Do you know what T-G-I-F now means? No? T-G-I-F means Twitter, Google, I-phone, and Facebook. You belong to the T-G-I-F generation, the generation that follows people and events on Twitter; searches and researches knowledge and information using Google; communicates—sends and receives messages—using the mobile phone; and builds friendships and socializes  by joining the social networks, such as Facebook, MySpace, WAYN, Friendster, etc.

And every day, because of the implosion of technology, a whole lot of new gadgets and inventions arrive in the market to change—improve—the ways peoples of the world do business, create products, provide services, learn new knowledge, and perform certain jobs. The Knowledge Century—your century—is here, and the world has never been the same again. It has become flat.

You will know that the world is flat when you transfer cash through Smart Padala; when, instead of writing a letter to your parents, you shoot an e-mail; when, instead of going to the library, you stay in your living room and “Google” or read the Encarta encyclopedia online; when, instead of buying a book at the National Bookstore, you order your favorite title from e-Bay; when, instead of buying a map of Sibale from the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority, or NAMRIA, you go online and locate our island through Googlemap, which is satellite-fed; and when you write a blog if you can’t get published.

These things were unimaginable in my generation. In my high school days, listening to radio dramas, not watching DVD movies, was our pastime; letter-writing was an art form, not a simple ‘text’ away chore; and we impressed the girls with hand-crafted Valentine’s cards, not with e-cards which are now aplenty in the Internet. Our friends then were limited to those around us—classmates and neighbors; unlike now when, with only a click of the computer mouse, friendships could be developed with people whom one may never ever see in his lifetime, thanks to the social networks.

Just last week, I received a note from one Nancy Hite, an American student writing her PhD dissertation at Yale University, asking me if she could use a quotation from my blog, which I have been maintaining since 2007. I didn’t know Ms. Hite, but because of the Internet, she knew me and she has been reading me. That’s a flat world.

Now, you know why the world is flat. But if you’re still unconvinced, here’s more.

If modern technology has hastened globalization, globalization has given birth to outsourcing. This is the trend now. Outsourcing simply means letting others do the job that you used to do for reasons of economy, efficiency, and cost. Outsourcing has “flattened” the world. I’d like to illustrate this in the cases of India and China, as Friedman has observed and documented.

India is the world’s No. 2 outsourcing country in the world. In India, many of the world’s multinational companies outsource their products and services to Indian companies because, over the last two decades, India has made great strides in opening up its economy, thereby attracting foreign investments that created jobs which in turn required brainpower—high quality graduates, such as mathematicians, information technology and software engineers, scientists, business managers, and analysts. You will not believe it, but India is producing some 89,000 MBAs every year. The number is growing.

It is the number and quality of Indian brainpower that attracts global businesses, which have been facing high costs in the West, to outsource many of their operations to India.

Friedman says that in the US, for example, it will cost an American family from US$80 to US$100 per hour to hire a tutor. But in Bangalore, India’s Silicon Valley, it will only cost from US$20 to US$40 an hour.

China today is the world’s No. 2 economy after the United States. It has just recently replaced Japan. In the northeast of China is the city of Dalian. Dalian is very close to Japan so there’s a lot of Japanese-speaking Chinese in Dalian who work for Japanese companies that have relocated to the region mainly because of low labor and infrastructure costs. Not only that. Japanese companies that can’t relocate outsource to Dalian many of their services, such as architectural design, for a fraction of the cost if these were done in Japan.

Let get back to the Philippines, which has just replaced India as the No. 1 in business process outsourcing. You will not believe it, but if you are articulate and can speak and write very good English, even if you are not a college graduate and regardless of your age, and provided you have a short training course in BPO operation, you can be easily hired today as a call center agent with an entry level salary of between P18,000 to P20,000 a month plus a signing bonus in the range of P40,000 plus perks and bonuses. This is improbable a few years ago.

Your life after high school will be decided on the great questions I have earlier articulated and which are percolating in your minds now. Some of you will pursue college degrees, while some others, because of various reasons one of which is financial capacity will, perhaps, look first for low-end jobs and enter the university later. Still some others will stay in the island; perhaps, get married after a few years, and build their own families.

But whatever path in life you will choose, still you will have to answer these questions: Are you prepared to face the world that I have described? Are you ready to take the journey in a flat world? Are you ready to compete?

If your answer is “No!”, then maybe I can help. I can help by sharing with you my experiences, first, as an Asi Sibalenhon, and second, as a global Filipino citizen. What I will share with you I did not learn wholly from the classroom, but from the higher university called life which I have lived over the course of my 47 earth-years.

(Second of four parts. To be continued.)

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