Outsourcing Colombia

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Picture “Manuela” by Juanpg.

There is not need to explain today what is Outsourcing in a global economy. It could be better to discuss about its benefits and difficulties from different perspectives as you can find it in many articles and sources, either from industrialized countries or from less developed ones. Thomas Sowell in its article “Outsourcing” and “Saving Jobs”, published by Capitalism Magazine – March 16, 2004 – called the attention in USA to those who proposed to stop Outsourcing because they think it has a bad impact on the over-all job picture (from the USA perspective, of course). Sowell said that such suggestion is virtually guaranteed to make things worse since USA itself has its own outsourcing jobs: “Yes, we can stop some jobs of computer programmers from going overseas. But what if Japan, for example, restricts the outsourcing of jobs to the United States, and Americans working for Toyota and Honda start getting laid off? What about Americans working for other foreign-owned companies operating in the United States?“, said Sowell.

Outsourcing as a discussion

Outsourcing is nothing more than one of the best evidence of a global market where national frontiers become just virtual. In fact, many companies, especially from industrialized countries, prefer to contract services from overseas in order to reduce costs. Of course, the outside experts must come from other contexts that shall allow the reduction of things such taxes and other limits and those ideal contexts are the less developed nations. It has lot consequences in the industrialized countries of course that are a point of discussion by politicians, economists and others. Among the criticisms of outsourcing they question the quality of the outsourced service. According with a survey conducted by Zogby, in the USA presidential elections of 2004, the 71% of the American voters believed that outsourcing overseas brings problems to the national economy. Other problem exposed by the critics of outsourcing is security and the most famous case involves India and Citibank in April of 2005: Some Citibank´s American costumers noticed discrepancies with their accounts and notified the bank. The investigations conducted to discover that Indian call centre workers in Pune, acquired the passwords of the customers and transferred the money to their own accounts opened with fictitious names to a theft of US$350,000. The critics to outsourcing overseas are widely response by many experts that argued that outsourcing is not necessarily a job destroyer, but the answer to a global economy.

Outsourcing for a country like Colombia

Colombia, however, is at the other point of view of the discussion. More than a country to contract outsourcing overseas – something likely possible -, is a heaven of offered outsourcing services to industrialized countries. According with the report of Proexport Colombia, “Colombia, perfil sectorial, servicios a las empresas“, Colombia is the second Latin American country where a significant part of its GDP comes from Information Technology and Business Processes. In the report, it is established that Colombia has about 3 thousand companies dedicated to Outsourcing with more than 32 thousand employees generating almost US$158 million per year (the Latin American incomes through this sector is about US$25,000 million with about 48 thousand companies and 600 thousand employees). The report says also that the perspectives for Colombia toward 2009 will be in Information Technologies with services such as Software and Hardware development, especially.

The information shows that Colombia has a good perspective in offering Outsourcing services to the International Community and especially to the industrialized countries. It is not to say that Colombia should put more attention in getting a profit of this opportunity, but it is already being done. What it must be said is that Colombia should concentrate in qualifying the services even more in the goal to become a leader in Latin America in that, such in a similar way India became the Asian and world leader in Outsourcing overseas.

The ideal to become a leader in this sector in Latin America is not far if we consider the conditions of the country in that sector. According with the World Competitiveness Scoreboard 2006, Colombia is the second more competitive country of Latin America after Chile and the 40th of the world, it means, that has an excellent level of qualify professionals in many arenas. On the other hand, it is the third more populated country of Latin America after Brazil and Mexico and the third Spanish-speaking country of the world after Mexico and Spain, if we consider Spanish as the second international language after English. In this case the country has a great human and professional resource that gives many conditions to do well in offering Outsourcing services.

Colombia challenges in Outsourcing

Knowing therefore the great possibilities of Colombia in this area, the country has to think about in giving more importance to this just in the same way it is given to coffee. Outsourcing has to see necessary with human resources and so this is the main element that must be worked out. That human resources need even more preparation ready to answer not only to the increasing demand of outsource services, but also to compete with quality. If some of the objections given to outsource services from less developed countries to the industrialized ones are studied with attention, it shall happen that a country like Colombia must demonstrate that its service is one of the most qualified of the planet. It is not just to invite professionals and freelancing brains to behave like good boys that can be trusted, but also to improve skills and technologies.

Superior education

The Colombian superior education has a good reputation in general. According with Icfes, the country has about 4,200 superior schools and 281 universities with the health services formation as the most required profession (see “Formación y desarrollo: ¿Estudiar en Colombia o en el exterior?“, by elempleo.com). In fact, the Colombian universities are also looked for by foreign students. For example, the Universidad de Antioquia, has an alumni coming from 115 different countries, principally Venezuela and the United States, but also Europe and Latin America plus professors from 51 nations, according with Info Medellin. However, it is not yet enough to say in order to rank the Colombian universities on the best tops of the world. What the positive conclusions can show is that the Colombian human resource is very much important and brave in things like offering outsourcing services overseas and that if we do even more in education, things like outsourcing services will be even stronger than what we are offering now. According with the Top 500 World Universities 2006, no a Colombian university is in the 1-100 top list (not even a Latin American one), and no one in the Top 100 North and Latin American Universities where the Universidad de Sao Paolo is 75th and Universidad de Buenos Aires and Universidad de México are 98. Of course, the ranking does not show other realities, but it puts in evidence some lacks that must be corrected in order to compete. Fernando Cepeda, a Colombian scholar and expert in politic, said in his report to El TiempoRanking de universidades: ¿Por qué las colombianas no están entre las mejores del mundo?” in August 7, 2004, that while a University like Harvard has a budget of US$2,400 million (about CP$6,2 billion) for 19,500 students and Johns Hopkins University (private one) got funds from the State of about US$1,000 million (about CP$2,6 billion) for investigation, the 31 official universities of Colombia received in 2004 from the State about US$70 million (CP$140,000 million).

Technologies and a second language

In this case the challenge is make technologies more at the hand of children and youth. Evidently a culture of Outsourcing needs a mentality ready to answer the new challenges of technology and the capacity to communicate in foreign languages. Colombia and Venezuela still located under the Latin American average in the use of Internet with 13,2% of the Colombian population and 14,26% of the Venezuelan population according with the reports of Tecnología hecha palabra by 2007 “Cifras de Internet en Colombia y Venezuela“. The same company said that in the first semester of 2006 the increase in users of Internet in Colombia was of 15% while in Venezuela it was 16,8%. About broadband Colombia showed by the first semester of 2006 a more superior figure than Venezuela (10%) with an increase of 46%.

Second language is other key in the conquest of sectors like Outsourcing. Even if Spanish is one of the most important languages of the world, little could be done with Spanish in markets like the ones of Asia. The only way to link a Colombian outsourcing company with a possible client in Tokyo, could be English, although the Japanese friends show amusement in our dear Cervantes language mother. But it is not only English the only language to talk about Outsourcing: what could Colombians do through Internet to outsourcing requests from countries like Holland, Germany, Italy, Yemen and others in their own language?

Cite this article:

Outsourcing Colombia. RODAS TORRES, Reinaldo Albeiro. Colombia Passport: Economics, Society and Culture in Colombia. Sihanoukville, June 28, 2007.

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