Friday, December 18, 2009

Badlisham Ghazali, CEO of Malaysia's MSC

I've posted the first of a two-part interview I did with Datuk Badlisham Ghazali, CEO of MdEC, the Malaysian government-driven entity that runs the MSC, which was originally called the Multimedia Super Corridor.

The MSC is not a thing, but a place, one of those earnest attempts to recreate Silicon Valley. It is quite extensive, running in a corridor about 15 miles east-west and 30 miles north-south, from the signature Petronas Towers in downtown KL through the planned cities of Cyberjaya and Putrajaya, and on out to the international airport.

There are 90,000+ people employed there now, 2,000 companies represented, and general revenue approaching $7 billion per year.

Malaysia is a formal place, reflecting the fact that the British were there for more than 250 years. Its multi-ethnic, multi-religious nature gives it a unique feeling, although I'll withhold further comment on that topic unless and until I live there for awhile and feel more knowledgeable on the topic!

The country has a smallish population by Southeast Asian standards, the usual heat and humidity of the region, and a drive to continue to improve the wealth of its people in the coming years and decades.

I hope to be able to learn more about the MSC and Malaysia in the future and to examine its role on the world technology stage in depth.

For now, thanks to Mr. Ghazali and his associates, here's Part One of the interview!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Gitmo Comes to Mom's Neighborhood

The proposed transfer by the federal government of some prisoners from Guantanomo Bay to a underused state prison facility in Thomson, Illinois hits home for me, literally.

My father was from Thomson, and my mom lives there now. She could walk from her house to the prison in about 15 minutes if she wanted to.

Thomson is a Mississippi River town, but unlike most, safe from the river. A state campground borders the river, with the town itself lying a few hundred feet above the river. The Army Corps of Engineers has had a long presence here, digging a channel to widen the river decades ago, and still maintaining a small office on Main St.

Thomson is located in Carroll County, the county seat of which is my hometown, Mount Carroll. The county defines the term "rural," with around 17,000 inhabitants, and a single stoplight that was put in a few years ago in the county's largest town, Savanna (pop. around 4,000), to acquiesce to tourist-related traffic.

Carroll County went through a spasm of self-reflection during the US bicentennial year in 1976, as did most places in the US.

Fire hydrants were painted to look like Founding Fathers--something that quickly ended in 1977 after complaints by firemen that they could no longer tell the capacity of individual hydrants, which had previously been color-coded.

And the county produced an historical book about itself, "A Goodly Heritage," and even came up with a county flag (which I've included here) and a slogan, "Beautiful, Bountiful, Beckoning."

I won't ridicule all this, even though it was a little grandiose for a place that is generally populated by people who are modest and humble, hard-working (when they can find a job), and live lives oriented around multi-generational families.

As with most of the heartland, the weather is about as pleasant as Bangkok in the summertime and the South Pole in the winter. But a solid two weeks in May and the entire month of September are usually very nice, and tornadoes haven't killed anyone in years around there.

Now Carroll County in general, and Thomson in particular, are in the news. I wrote my opinion piece about this a couple of days ago. Read and enjoy if you want.

This story actually begins with the building of this prison a few years ago by the State of Illinois. Huge news at the time, the assorted thugs and thieves in the state capital of Springfield promised vast new prosperity for the town. Didn't happen. The state forgot to fund the actual opening of the prison, and it has sat mostly empty, sucking up dollars rather than contributing them.

Now, the federal government has said it will acquire the prison and make use of it. My mom thinks this is a good idea. She's not afraid of the potential new residents. So, for once, I'll listen to her opinion and go along with it!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Has Global Sourcing Returned to the Heartland?

Before call centers started to sprout in India and the Philippines, many companies set up moderately massive centers in the US, usually in lightly populated places such as South Dakota and Maine.

This trend actually followed a long-term charactertistic of the publishing and direct-marketing industries, which often set up in The Heartland, due to moderate wage levels and zoned postage rates that encouraged a location from the middle of the country.

Remember all those magazine subscription cards in the old days that went to Mt. Morris, Illinois and Clinton, Iowa?

The American Heartland has been under duress for three decades now. The cold weather and a certain lack of flexibility in business thinking catalyzed a brain drain to the warmer climes of the South and the innovation of Silicon Valley and other places "Out West."

But now, with near-ubiquitous broadband Web access and mass proliferation of cellphones and other wireless devices, prosperity seems to be returning to some regions.

I don't believe for a moment that President Obama can do a thing to bring all those great industrial jobs back to Ohio and Michigan, as he alleged during his campaign. Hey, maybe he's just a politician trying to win votes, I don't know.

But something more special than that seems to be going on. A recent study about emerging rural prosperity, being touted by the rurally-located University of Illinois.

I'm looking into seeing how much of that is attributable to the global sourcing phenomenon. The news I read about this report emphasizes civic awareness, the role of small colleges, and something that had a disturbing whiff to me of race-based politics.

But I'll wait until I read the entire report, and the reports behind that report.

I do think global sourcing is about to make an impact in The Heartland. To me, the key sentence I took from an overview of the report is, "geographical factors like climate, topography, distances to cities and airports, and interstate highways are unimportant in distinguishing prosperous counties from others."

There was a time when it didn't matter that it's cold in the Midwest six months of the year. Then there was a time when it did matter. Now, it appears that it doesn't matter again.

In my opinion, global sourcing is not just about India and China anymore. It's about Southeast Asia, too...and it may be about the USA as well!

Jonathan Rosenberg, Global Sourcing Pioneer

During my recent stay in the Philippines, I had the opportunity to meet many fascinating people at a government-sponsored event known as Convergence 2009.

One of these was Jonathan Rosenberg, who co-founded the first Philippine call-center in 1999. Now, 10 years after, he's one of the venerable players in an industry that is delivering more than $2 billion in annual revenue and provides 160,000 jobs in a country that

You can find the interview at the NOW Magazine syndication site.

I'm staying away from the dread term "outsourcing," because I don't believe it accurately defines what is going on in the global economy today. To me, the idea of "global sourcing" is much more accurate.

Most products today are sourced from dozens, if not hundreds, of vendors from all corners of the world. Services are also provided from innumerable pinpoints on the globe.