Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Public sector IT offshoring makes front page news

(By Richard Holway 1.00pm Wednesday 29th July 09) It was only a matter of time before the public sector offshoring of IT jobs to India made it to the front page. That's exactly what happened today in The Times - see Union fury as Civil service outsources jobs to India. The story was picked up by the BBC and other media too. Today's story was about a pretty limited 100 jobs at the British Council.

Our reporting on the Operational Efficiency Review and our recent subscriber-only report - The Effects of a Conservative Government on UK SITS - both highlighted IT offshoring as the 'Elephant in the room'. The OER made not one reference to offshoring in its 100 pages. In our conversations with the Conservative Party spokesperson, everytime I mentioned offshoring there was a deafly silence - until he went 'off-the-record'.

Like all things political, I really think we should have an open and honest debate about this. The public sector finances and spending are in a hole - indeed a bigger hole than anything I've seen in my lifetime. All parties will have to cut public spending. The British people understand that and that's why they reject Gordon Brown's assertion that you can continue to spend, spend, spend. But cutting spending does not automatically mean you have to cut public sector service levels. As most, if not all, private companies have found you can deliver more and more for less and less. The private sector has embraced offshoring as one of the ways it has achieved that. The public sector could make substantial cuts in spending whilst also maintaining service levels by embracing offshoring more.

But, as we know, it comes at a price. I am passionate (see the IT Manifesto - Making BrITain Great Again) that we boost the number of entry-level IT jobs in the UK. Although that sounds a difficult 'circle to square' it is not impossible. I think part of the way of doing business with companies that have significant offshoring operations should be a 'pact' that the relevant proportion of their campus recruitment should be in the UK.

For example TCS makes c$1b out of its c$6b global revenues from the UK. This year it will take on 25,000 graduates in India but NOT ONE in the UK. If it agreed to take on UK graduates in proportion to its UK revenues, it would recruit over 4000 here! Now, I know that’s unlikely (indeed the UK couldn’t even fill that number) BUT zero is far too far the wrong way!

But, at the very least, we should have an honest debate on this subject.

No comments:

Post a Comment