While we in this country debate whether college is worth it and jobs go begging for lack of workers with the necessary skills, in undeveloped nations, the concern is much more basic: Will we have food to eat today?
An article at MercuryNews.com looks at Digital Divide Data, a 10-year-old nonprofit that looks to tech training to lift disadvantaged workers in the developing world out of crushing poverty. It trains people in Laos, Kenya and Cambodia for entry-level technology jobs, offers college scholarships and extensive lessons in English. And lest folks get worked up into a lather over how outsourcing is robbing U.S. workers of tech jobs, as my colleague Don Tennant's readers tend to do, note that these poor workers perform tasks that U.S. workers wouldn't want. Digital Divide Data works with universities and publishers to digitize books for iPad, Kindle and Sony Reader. It also manages Google's AdWords campaign in Africa. This tedious and time-consuming data entry and database creation and management would be far too expensive to be done in the United States.
According to the article:
A report in June funded by the Rockefeller Foundation estimated income of [these] workers can soar as much as 200 percent when employed by outsourcing operations such as Digital Divide Data, which has about 750 trainees and full-time employees and another 400 alumni. The study said that by 2015, nearly 800,000 bottom-of-the-pyramid workers could be employed in regions like Southeast Asia and Africa, representing 11 percent of the $178 billion global market for so-called business process outsourcing.
It's just another reminder that we all have to be constantly upgrading our skills. Despite the naysayers, a recent report by Georgetown University Center for Education in the Workforce pointed to tech as a good ticket to middle-class status, even for those with less than a college degree. And as for the issue of outsourcing, as my colleague Mike Vizard wrote recently:
... the real question shouldn't be so much about rolling back globalization as much as it should be about advancing the skills of the entire IT community in a way that promotes enough work for all concerned.