Information technology behind global shakeup: NYT columnist

Tom Friedman: 'It used to be that only cheap foreign manual labor was easily available; now cheap foreign genius is easily available.'

For years at this blogsite, we've been arguing that information technology is more than merely a tool for increasing efficiency within company operations. IT has become a catalyst for something far larger, an instrument of transformation -- opening up data and knowledge to decision makers at all levels; increasing pliability to respond faster and more aggressively to market opportunities; enabling companies to evolve as nimble brokers of services, matching producers and consumers; and empowering individual professionals, managers and employees with greater productivity and capabilities.

The Great Digital Awakening: Citizens of Iceland employed social media to rewrite their constitution earlier this year.

That's just the opening act in this new IT era. New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, author of The World is Flat, urges us to think even bigger when it comes to IT.  In his latest column, he looks at all the events erupting around the globe — from the Arab Spring uprisings to European Union turmoil to economic displacements — and says this new global shakeup has a common fabric underneath: information technology:

“Globalization and the information technology revolution have gone to a whole new level. Thanks to cloud computing, robotics, 3G wireless connectivity, Skype, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, the iPad, and cheap Internet-enabled smartphones, the world has gone from connected to hyper-connected. This is the single most important trend in the world today.”

The same IT that is empowering and emboldening movements against autocratic regimes or unresponsive governments is also shifting opportunities away from manual, physical, or easily repeatable work, rewarding those that “study harder, work smarter and adapt quicker than ever before,” Friedman adds. On one level, the mix of IT and globalization is creating immense new wealth.

On another level, it is widening the gap between people stuck in the older economy and those charging into the new. Witness all the outsourcing that has taken place in recent years. As Friedman puts it: “It used to be that only cheap foreign manual labor was easily available; now cheap foreign genius is easily available.”

Even CEOs and other top executives should take note on how information technology is turning the pyramid upside down, Friedman says.

Cross-posted at SmartPlanet Business Brains.