The arguments of Don ONeill of the Center for National Software Studies remind me of the protectionist arguments of the early 60s and 70s. Guess what? We should all check the labels on our T-shirts or the brand on our VCRs. ONeill devoted only two small paragraphs to the pros of offshore development and many more lines to the cons. His arguments are flawed.
ONeill says, "Offshore outsourcing ... provides a direct boost to ... those countries." He is absolutely correct, but hes only looking at half the question. The economics of offshore software development work both ways. The United States benefits from lower costs, whether the product is software, trucks or televisions. A lower cost of production benefits businesses in particular and the public in general. Writing software in India is no different from manufacturing T-shirts in Guatemala or Jeeps in China. Can you imagine a T-shirt costing $50 rather than a tenth of this price?
"Offshore software developers are not vetted for trustworthiness," ONeill writes. This statement is ignorant and arrogant. Software companies, particularly in South Asia and Southeast Asia, are sensitive to this issue. Laws are on the books or are being written to tighten security in software development. As a matter of fact, the Asia Pacific Economic Council, of which the United States is a member, has a committee working on this very issue.
In short, there are ample technical means to guarantee the security of sensitive data; implying lack of trustworthiness on the part of offshore software houses is a baseless insinuation.
ONeill says executives who outsource are unable to exert management and oversight and are likely to find their capabilities for determining requirements are immature. Again, this reeks of arrogance. Of course, there is no substitute for in-person supervision, but surely ONeill must have heard of the phenomenon called the Internet. Day-to-day supervision of software development—and significant cost savings—is now possible through collaboration over the Web.
ONeills think tank, and those who use its services, would be well-served to look into how we can be more productive by taking advantage of offshore resources where appropriate while using local resources to strengthen corporate defenses against threats such as hackers, worms and viruses.
Protectionism is never an answer, no matter what the business is.
Ben L. Faustino has worked in the IT industry for more than 30 years, including stints with IBM in Asia, Hewlett-Packard in the Philippines and AT&T Bell Labs in Murray Hill, N.J. Faustino is an investor in two small software companies, one in the United States and one offshore. His e-mail address is email@example.com. Free Spectrum is a forum for the IT community. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.