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A Review of “its a Flat World After All” by Thomas Friedman

Updated on September 20, 2021

In this article, the author argues that both technology and geo-economics is rapidly reshaping the world in ways that could have not been imagined. Though technological development has brought us convenience in many ways, it is causing negative effects to our present and future generations because it is not being monitored effectively. Some of these side effects includes but not limited to, social communicate problems, over relying on it, and lack of opportunities. Whereas the advanced technology are now predominant and seem to be more advanced in the near future, Friedman argues that the advancement of technology has “flattened” the world but will bring with it more harm than good to humanity if unchecked. Friedman affirms this when he uses examples on how technology has affected humans negatively as realized in the events of September 9/11, Enron scandals, and the emergence of the dot com bust.

Owing to the easy accessibility of knowledge and information through the internet and other technological devices, insurgents and terrorists can now do their activities such as recruitment and coordination in a more efficient way. The internet and television were responsible for showing the world the humiliations and power of these terrorist in terrorism activities.

There is no doubt that the terrorist attacks of September 9/11 coincided with the increasing technological development at that time. People from specific groups who had perceived Americans negatively had instigated the attack. Cable media networks and satellite television that transmitted these negative information in various places had mounted upon these perceptions. The international, national and local news could be watched all over the world by anybody who has access to television or internet. Technology such as the internet was also used to coordinate the activities of the terrorists. The emergency of the mobile phones could have been helpful in coordination of the terrorism activities in this attack. Mobile phones played a key role in coordination of youth movements and activities of these people.

It is true that technology played a negative role in the events of September 9/11 inform of spreading messages about America and coordination of the terrorist activities. However, what Friedman fails to disclose is the positive side which technology played in this perspective. This attack instigated the advancement of new security gadgets in modern technology that could be used to protect the lives of American citizens. If this attack by the terrorists had not been instigated, there is no doubt that today’s stance of technological advancement could not have reached the level it is. It is technology, which has come up with unmanned drones for security purposes and computers, which can be used to plot the security status of the entire earth. The usefulness of technology advancement can also be depicted with cell phones in security purposes. Presently, these gargets include even cameras for security surveillance, which were not thought of some years back. In general, we can support Friedman’s argument that technology played a role in September 9/11 terrorism in US but as can be realized, the events led to more advancement in technology in the countries’ economy and overall security.

The Enron Scandal on the other hand, is known to have been aided by the internet where emails for fraudulent activities were sent and received. The technology used by the management also assisted in conducting accounting manipulations to confuse the auditors and employees of the firm. However, at that time, many people had not been exposed to internet and that is the reason why they could not been caught for a long time. It is however, the media and other technological innovations that exposed the Enron scandal. Today, people are more of exposed to the internet and few can hide their operations or exchange sensitive information on the internet without being detected.

In this article, Friedman also argues that the bust has been instigated by the advancement in technology. Though the author may argue that technology has to blame for the dot com bust, it should also not be forgotten that the media and technology has played a huge role in reporting its boom. What should also been put into consideration is that the dot com factor has had both success and failures all along its development process. Even with the information and data, which has caused negative impact to the dot com, there is no doubt that, technology is ultimately going to transform the lives of many people. Many companies are currently in the process of restructuring themselves using technology. In other words, it is becoming more difficult for companies to operate without incorporation of modern technology in its management and operational systems. It can be acknowledged that many companies are now investing in information technology to boost its operations that says, a decade ago. It can therefore, be construed that regarding the internet world, both benefits and disadvantages can be reaped from it.

Friedman argues that technology has been the main factor that has helped to “flatten the world.” He stresses that the examples which he have provide above, the 9/11 incident, the dotcom bust and the Enron scandals can all attest to that. He says that technology has resulted into a globalised world. The “global flattening” however, took him by surprise. According to him, the “flattening of the world” has brought more dangers than good in terms of transfer of global knowledge and information from one place to another. Though we cannot agree with this author’s articulation in their entirety, the media, communities and organizations have a role to play make sure that what is relayed as information is reliable and not just any junk. Incorrect information if not monitored may mislead may people and results into them having a negative attitudes. We can all attest to the role in which media can play when it relays wrong information.

A visit to Infosys Technologies Limited in India further confirms Friedman’s perception on how technology has flattened the world. He becomes much more overwhelmed by the flat screen television, steel and glass buildings in this company, which are all the outcome of an advanced technology. The company’s chief executive officer Nilekani gives him more confirmations that the playing field in the world has been leveraged. This is why countries such as India can now compete for global knowledge unlike in the past. The realization by Friedman that the world was flat regenerated into him being excited and amazed at this revelation. He continues to articulate that the world is experiencing the middle level of globalization. This globalization has reached a phase where individuals can now compete in a global perspective. His aim in this article is specifically to inform the reader on how technology has flattened the world as well as the impact which it has caused with regard to general development.

Concerning outsourcing, the author notes that unlike ancient times, outsourcing in modern times is no longer restricted by time and geographic restraints. Organizations are now able to outsource from other companies and countries from any part of the globe. In addition, these operations are not limited by time and operate for 24/7/365 because of the time zone differences in each country. Many global companies pass work among teams all over the world in a 24-hour operation. This is what he means by the flattening of the world. The author gives an example of India, which became a destination for major outsourcing jobs due to its low cost of operations.

The outsourcing of jobs and knowledge from India may be attributed to the highly trained and cheap personnel in the country. Recently, India has been an attractive venue for companies involved in many sorts of work owing to the availability of cheap but well trained personnel. Outsourcing has enabled Indian personnel to reach world markets and therefore, improve on their livelihood. Companies from many parts of the world that outsource personnel from India are able to save much money because of the law cost of living in the country.

In many parts of the world, outsourcing as a technological innovation has been a favorable choice for major organizations. However, the concept of outsourcing has not been a novel idea. This is because for many years, firms have been trying hard to put down the cost of their operations without tempering with the quality of services or goods they offer. The use of outsourcing technology has resulted into a reduction of workforce in many industries. However, this trend as Friedman noticed appears a favorite choice in many organizations. As Fried man realizes, outsourcing has been impacted on organizations positively in many ways. However, he fails to get the other side of the coin concerning the threat posed by this trend. Anybody who has been following the trend of outsourcing can attest to the idea that it has generated some level of instability and uncertainties especially on careers pertaining to information technology. People employed in the industry of IT are facing difficulties in many places of the world. Despite these challenges, many firms are now turning to outsourcing as a means to addressing technological challenges.

Outsourcing as the author discovered is also beneficial to countries, which have different time zones. The benefit comes from the fact that it allows a country to operate 24/7 and therefore, the company’s operations cannot be jeopardized. Some countries night time might be another’s day time, therefore, the partners will simply pass over the work load to another and the work continues even if the other employee retire to their homes. Employees who are operating will be able to perform the required tasks and send them back to the other company for review. This means that it results into more work being done in a day and therefore, increasing the overall performance of a firm. A 24X7/365 support is quite helpful especially to avoid inconveniences to customers.

Apart from the connecting of the world by means of outsourcing, many other benefits may accrue from this technology. Among these is the reduction of prices for goods such as electronics, automobiles, shoes and textiles. Outsourcing also enables workers to learn new ideas and skills acquired in other nations. Despite the sense that outsourcing is resulting into the loss of jobs in many companies, there has not been any sign that the demand for IT jobs is dwindling, in fact, it continues to increase. The development and expansion of IT industry far outweighs the loss of jobs.

Thomas Friedman is also mesmerized when he noted that in India, many people were able to compete in acquiring global knowledge. According to him, it has now become possible to interact or compete with more people on various types of jobs in different places of the world and on an equal manner in comparison to the past. He also adds that the aspect of connectivity has been the most crucial aspect in the flattening of the world. It is true that nowadays, many people have access to internet where his description fits in a perfect manner. Presently, a lot more people use the internet in so many ways such as browsing, blogging, social networking and other ways, which has transformed the day-to-day life.

In essence, the “flattening of the world” phrase is only metaphor, which Friedman uses in his description of globalization phase. This phrase comes to him while in his fieldwork, where he meets software personnel who informs him on how technology has transformed and leveraged the economy world. What can be considered as entry barriers have been destroyed and in the present perspective; individuals, companies either collaborate or compete on a global perspective

In essence, technology continues to develop rapidly and as Friedman notes, it has flattened the world; things that never thought could be real ten years back such as tele-conferencing, outsourcing and so on , have now became a reality. Mobile phones which are more like computers and have taken the world by storm and many cannot imagine what their lives would had been if they did not have email, internet or even the chat features on their cell phones. Other positive sides derived from the advancement of technology include development of more advanced security gadgets, ease of outsourcing and communication systems.

Friedman in his article argues that he has noted the world as becoming flat and this may not be good for a variety of reasons. For instance, Advancement of information technology has helped terrorists to perform their operations. Precautions must be taken by those responsible organs or persons so as to ensure that it is correctly used. If precautions are not considered, then the subject of the world “flattening”, the influence on life, the challenges that will be encountered and the disadvantages it will create will be immense. In particular, the technology has created a flat world and more interesting is the assumption that the dot com bubble has played a significant role.

Friedman, Thomas, April, 3, 2005.Its a flat world after all. New York Times, April, 3, 2005


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