Embracing “The Third Wave”….by Joseph Jadway D. Marasigan

The other night saw me watching and listening to the performances videos of Charice Pempengco. I realized that Charice, being “the Youtube sensation” that she was once known for, would not have been possible without the internet. Her success which is due largely to the exposure that the social media has given her, would not have been possible let us say, in the 1980s, or even in the early 1990s. Charice is indeed sensational, one of the few singers I believe who can leave musical greats like David Foster in awe and admiration and I am obviously, a fan. I am a fan not just of Charice but, as importantly, I am a fan of her story. Hers is not the usual Cinderalla, rags-to-riches tale like some sort of a Manny Pacquiao story. But my admiration of Charice’s story stems basically from the fact that whatever she has reached and achieved at this point has been made possible by the internet.

I should hate globalization. That is how I have been taught by dear mentors in the social movements. But I chanced upon a two decade-old article written by Ed de la Torre offering a useful distinction between globalization and globalism. The former, he argues is something that we as individuals or as a nation cannot avoid. Globalism on the other hand, that which presumes that everything global is superior, is something we can and must shun, citing the proposal of the writer Peter Waterman.

So indeed, globalism poses serious threats to small but deserving industries and giving undue advantage to giant corporations who back their brands with powerful advertising, creating competitors killing off competition eventually, observes analyst Randy David. But then he added: “How can anyone stop a process that is being brought about by the unstoppable spread of modern technology and lifestyles, the massive increase in interaction among civilizations through tourism, trade and communications; and the dizzying mobility of people in search of work?”

The challenge for us and for the state in particular, notes David, is to see to it the breakneck pace of the new economic order does not create enormous disparities that are politically unsustainable. The state should see to it that basic services like education, housing and healthcare are still immediately available for distribution to the majority of our people, especially to those who have less in life. We cannot simply allow the market to offer these on behalf of the government. The issue has got a lot to do with the uneven character in the levels of development between and among concerned countries, distorting the integrity of the less developed societies.

I would like to stress for instance the value that a solid education plays in the development of a strong workforce that is ready to compete against the rest of the world. My argument is that modern technology, particularly the Internet known by many other things like the Cloud, the Web, etc. has worked for us in terms of equalizing opportunities for many a people who have otherwise been locked to the market’s obliviousness to the rest of the world, transcending geographical boundaries, political persuasion, religion and yes, transcending even time zone differences. That is precisely the reason why the call center industry is booming, generating billions of pesos in revenues. It’s just fascinating. To my mind, this kind of phenomenon compares reasonably to how overseas work served as a stop-gap measure meant to address domestic unemployment back in the seventies. Now, the Philippines is steadily becoming the largest service economy in Asia outperforming India, and even China. It has worked positively for what I’d like to call the “the techno-global economic democratization.”

Today, freelancer sites like Odesk.com, Elance.com, etc., offering remote online work, bringing to life what Alvin Toffler predicted some four decades ago. Working on projects for offshore clients has allowed young professionals and retirees alike to keep above-average wages while staying in the comforts of their homes, allowing them to spend greater time with their families and to make use of their spare time to other productive activities, overcoming the problems that overseas work has created. Toffler wrote in his classic work The Third Wave: “Until now the human race has undergone two great waves of change, each one largely obliterating earlier cultures or civilizations and replacing them with ways of life inconceivable to those who came before. The First Wave of change – the agricultural revolution – took thousands of years to play itself out. The Second Wave – the rise of the industrial civilization – took a mere three hundred years. Today history is even more accelerative, and it is likely that the Third Wave will sweep across history and complete itself in a few decades.”

Obviously, Toffler who invented the term “telecommuting,” was referring to the service economy – the Third Wave. The freelance marketplace is indeed revolutionizing the economy, democratizing the global distribution of incomes allowing Filipinos to compete in an arena that transcends geography and politics. This is the new political economy. While there is enough bases for well-meaning individuals to shun globalization altogether, we must take advantage of the great possibilities that this entire process has come to offer. While globalization is more popularly seen from the standpoint of the perils that we associate with it, the rest I believe is a promise — an exciting one at that.

(ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joseph Jadway “JJ” Marasigan is the Senior Managing Partner of Adeptima Consulting Philippines. Adeptima Consulting is an Executive Search firm that helps businesses to fill the gaps between operations and human resources. It also provides virtualization and offshore consulting services to clients in Europe and the United States. Professor, as he is fondly called, hails from Lucena City and Sariaya, Quezon.)

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