Internet proliferation in emerging regions has exploded over the past decade. According to statistics, Asia has experienced 841% growth since 2000, and Africa a substantial 3600% over the last 12 years.
What these figures add up to is enormous opportunities accompanied by unique challenges to the traditional ways of doing business.
One local organisation is riding the wave of growing internet accessibility and is at the forefront of its transformative effects in developing economies. Employment outsourcing firm freelancer.com is linking thousands of freelancers in a range of expert fields with clients all over the world. Often the client is able to secure a resource at a price point far lower than what the same expertise could be secured for in their local market.
While some pundits express caution about the possibility of exploitation of vulnerable workers, Freelancer claims that workers receive a wage in excess of what they could earn locally. In a recent online article, Aussie founder Matt Barrie referred to freelancers using his online business forum as “the elite of the elite of the elite in their countries”. He went on to say,“Their wages are orders of magnitude higher than what they would earn locally.”
This new style of working seems to be taking off. When Freelancer recently listed on the share market, it was valued at around $700 million. Similar organisations like oDesk and Elance have also experienced exponential growth.
It would seem that this new style of working will fast become the norm, challenging vendors to design their software so that it is ‘global-ready’; optimised for long distance client/provider relationships. Collaboration options will be key. Visibility of progress will be critical. And perhaps most importantly, speed will be king.
Cloud computing has levelled the playing field in many ways. Small to medium enterprise can now leverage applications that are equally as powerful as those used by businesses at the top end of town – at a fraction of the cost. Accessing a global pool of highly qualified and talented freelancers is the second great transformative wave that will further even out the David and Goliath battle for the customer.
But a few things need to happen first. Freelancer and other such networks need to ensure the appropriate checks and balances are in place to avoid exploitation. The internet should continue to be accessible by more people in developing countries at an even faster rate than it is today. And vendors need to adjust to the functionality and accessibility demands required in this growing trend of doing business.
All this makes for an exciting few years ahead, not to mention the enormous benefits that small to medium business are experiencing. Ready-access to a talented, willing and capable pool of expert resources makes for an increasingly competitive global playing field.