Editor's note: The following story is from InfoWorld’s 2008 April Fool's spoof-news feature package. It is not true. Enjoy!
If your last customer service call sounded as if it were fielded by an 8-year-old, it probably was. Outfitted with technology donated by the One Laptop Per Child program, overseas firms -- spearheaded by a new breed of young, ambitious technologists -- are bent on filling what some are calling a growing offshore void.
Long the bread and butter of major Indian and Chinese outsourcers, back-office "commodity" skills such as customer service, help desk processing, and data entry are fast phasing out of India and China, as traditional offshore firms ride the KPO (knowledge process outsourcing) wave toward the enterprise core. No longer content to sit in classrooms informing Internet denizens of the travails of daily life in the Third World via lightweight blogging tools, children from Montevideo to Addis Ababa to Kabul are banding together to capitalize on the newfound opportunity.
"The educational push of the OLPC program was a phenomenal first step. But this, the introduction of children to the lucrative IT market, will likely be the game-changing business trend of the century," said Robert Munson, chief staffing analyst at The Red Hill Group and author of the research report "The Children Are Our Future: The Low-Cost Laptop Staffing Revolution."
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So stirring is the potential of the trend that many analysts are invoking Thomas Friedman's conjecture that, when it comes to the economic power of technology, the world is in fact flat -- or at least closer to the ground than ever before.
"These kids are hungry, and -- equipped with this laptop -- there is no telling how far they will go," Munson added. "Expect the next major project your company launches to include an 11-year-old from West Africa as a critical player, if not a bona fide stakeholder."
The OLPC XO laptop comes equipped with a 433MHz CPU, Fedora-based Linux OS, a slimmed-down suite of productivity apps, and mesh networking capabilities. It is meant to help level the playing field in the education space, but as U.S.-based IT workers publish OLPC "hacks" to the Web, preadolescent recipients of donated laptops are moving fast to transform their OLPCs into powerful, lightweight workhorses based on the YAMP (Yum, Apache, MySQL, PHP) stack.
And with every bit of knowledge these children glean, another U.S. IT job is put in jeopardy.
Whether the threat will have lasting impact on the U.S. IT job market remains to be seen. Distractions, often in the form of famine and civil unrest, have taken their toll on early movers in this nascent industry.
"We used to have some other kids in the village working on our Semantic search accounts," a 9-year-old Sudanese boy, who wished to remain anonymous, said through a United Nations interpreter. "But then the Children's Army of the Republic came through, and they moved on to new opportunities."
Despite such setbacks, analysts see the OLPC offshoring movement gathering considerable steam, with many citing fresh perspectives and youthful ingenuity as driving factors.