Long-term historical trends "can give us a rough sense of the likelihood of unrest in different places -- very unlikely, say, in Demark, very likely in Somalia -- but not of the specifics of what will set off violence, when exactly it'll happen, or why some particular event like Mohamed Bouazizi burning himself in Tunisia will bring the Egyptian government to the verge of collapse, while the Libyan and Syrian rulers have survived, so far, anyway," Morris said.
At this point, in its still unsettled state, anything seems possible for Egypt. But even if it emerges quickly from its problems, it's unlikely to see a smooth return to its outsourcing effort, according to Prof. Leslie Willcocks, director of The Outsourcing Unit at the London School of Economics.
Egypt's "outsourcing initiative was part of a much bigger economic development initiative, and it was all 'owned' by an inner group within the government and related agencies," Willcocks said. "Any handover of ownership of these projects is likely to be very disruptive and will slow the processes in hand."
"Any new government would be foolish to throw away the advances made," she said. "But worse things have been done in other countries as a result of political upheaval."
The emerging markets "are by their nature risky in some regard," said Ian Marriott, a Gartner analyst, who worked on the top 30 list. He cited riots in Indonesia, Thailand, concerns about gang violence in Mexico, and the bombings in India as examples of continuing global volatility.
Marriott said that in terms of Egypt, Gartner did raise in its report the uncertainty of the politics in that country, the upcoming election and mistrust of the young people in it. "We called out to the extent that we could that there is a degree of political instability there," he said.
But you can't "get too far into the politics," Marriott said. "You have to make a balanced business decision."
Similarly, A.T. Kearney looked at political risk as well as broad spectrum of its business environment.
Gott said political risk is assessed as part of the overall business environment that includes such things as IT security, infrastructure, and level of corruption. But what gave Egypt strong marks are its workforce, with a large output of graduates in engineering and increasing levels of certifications.
Egypt had been moving up in its rankings, said Johan Gott, a manager at consulting firm and author of its Global Services Location Index.
Five years ago, Egypt was an unknown in outsourcing, Gott said. "Egypt was a late comer," he said. "[But] Egypt exhibits many of the same qualities that India had when India started to grow."
The Egyptian government estimates its outsourcing market at more than $1 billion, but Frances Karamouzis, an analyst at Gartner, estimates that Egypt's offshore services, measured as an export, is about $150 million.
Karamouzis said she reviewed three years' worth of material from key Egyptian entities, included presentations and written material, "and there was never a single slide that had extensive data and positioning regarding geo-political risk, government issues, treasury risk, crime, safety issues, and other items," she said.
"[Egypt] will now have to be in crisis mode to create materials, marketing collateral, substantiated data and factual information in order shift perceptions and reality," Karamouzis said.
Morris said that long-term patterns are good for predicting general trends and statistical probabilities but not so good for predicting details, such as that Ben Ali, the former president of the Tunisian Republic, would have to flee Tunisia and that Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, might have to resign.
"And, of course, taking the long-term view, it could well turn out that after a few weeks of violence Egypt settles down again and emerges from all this with a stronger government and becomes an even more attractive location for offshoring technology," Morris said.
Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed. His email address is email@example.com. Read more about outsourcing in Computerworld's Outsourcing Topic Center.