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Is the World Still Flat? An Update

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2 Author(s)
Ruth, S. ; George Mason Univ., Fairfax ; Pizzato, A.

Writer Thomas L Friedman sees "flatness" as a metaphor for innumerable global partnerships and greater leveraging of IT's immense potential. But his "dirty little secrets" suggest that the US needs to anticipate some serious internal challenges that could reduce long-term competitiveness. Friedman believes that we've experienced three eras of "flattening." The first (1492 through 1800) was characterized by competition among the great nations of the world to leverage brawn or muscle by harnessing the power of animals, wind, and steam. The forces behind global integration at the time were religion or imperialism, often operating together. The second era (1800 through 2000) witnessed an industrial and transport revolution, in which the key force for integration was the multinational company. According to Friedman, the second half of this era featured "falling telecommunication costs - thanks to the diffusion of the telegraph, telephones, the PC, satellites, Fiber-optic cable, and the early version of the World Wide Web." The bulk of the book focuses on the third era. Globalization 3.0. Friedman says the earlier eras were about groups and organizations, but the 3.0 world is about empowering individuals to compete as never before. He attributes this enabling power to a flat-world platform that consists of the convergence of PC, fiber optics, and workflow software. The World Is Flat also describes 10 significant forces responsible for the 3.0 era. These "flatteners" include the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Netscape and the rise of Web connectivity, workflow software (machines talking to other machines without human involvement), open sourcing (or uploading), outsourcing, offshoring (like outsourcing, except that the company actually sets up a new factory in the foreign country to get the labor price benefits), supply chaining (companies streamlining all facets of production), insourcing (companies taking on various tasks for other companies), in-forming (the rise of sea- rch engines), and "the steroids" (personal digital equipment). Let's examine more closely what Friedman calls "dirty little secrets," six alarming ICT policy problems that could eventually cripple the US's ability to be a major player in the flat world of the future.

Published in:

Internet Computing, IEEE  (Volume:11 ,  Issue: 5 )