Passport

Why my job will soon be offshored to India

I've often dreamed of finding the perfect virtual secretary to manage those mundane tasks of life—paying bills, filing paperwork, keeping track of appointments, making travel arrangements—that are difficult to manage on a hectic schedule. Now it appears that I haven't been dreaming big enough. An article in Saturday's Wall Street Journal highlights the potentially huge phenomenon of "personal offshoring": 

Offshore outsourcing has transformed the way U.S. companies do business. Now, some early adopters are figuring out how to tap overseas workers for personal tasks. They're turning to a vast talent pool in India, China, Bangladesh and elsewhere for jobs ranging from landscape architecture to kitchen remodeling and math tutoring. They're also outsourcing some surprisingly small jobs, including getting a dress designed, creating address labels for wedding invitations or finding a good deal on a hotel room, for example.

Along with Guru.com, one of the bigger players is Elance, a California-based company whose site lists a huge variety of freelance jobs. Disturbingly, many of the tasks listed are in my job description: blog writing, copy editing, article writing, web layout ...

Evalueserve, the Indian research firm that wrote the white paper (pdf) that prompted the Journal's story, estimates "the total addressable market in the United States" for personal offshoring to be "easily" over $20 billion. Gulp.

The good news is that my dream of having a personal assistant is now attainable: There's GetFriday, an unfortunately named Indian company that offers a "personal virtual assistant" for as little as $7 an hour, depending on which plan you choose. So as long as I don't get offshored myself, my life may just have gotten a little easier.

Passport

Morning Brief, Tuesday, June 5

Americas

Getty Images News

Military judges dismissed war crimes charges against two Guantánamo detainees on the grounds that the detainees were not properly classified as "unlawful enemy combatants." The Pentagon will likely appeal the decision, which did not bear on the innocence or guilt of the accused. One of the detainees was Salim Ahmed Hamdan, said to be Osama bin Laden's driver and famous for the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case (pdf) that went to the Supreme Court last year.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called on the Organization of American States to look into Hugo Chávez's moves against an opposition TV station. Her Venezuelan counterpart responded by comparing Guantánamo to something from "the Hitler era."

A proposed point system for evaluating would-be immigrants to the United States is coming under fire as the Senate gears up to resume work on the immigration compromise bill. 

Asia

Chinese stocks bounced back Tuesday after yesterday's plunge, following rumors that the government was planning to intervene. The Wall Street Journal notes that the recent slide in the Shanghai Composite Index hasn't spread to world markets because "hardly any [overseas investors] own shares in China's stock markets in Shanghai and Shenzhen, which are largely off-limits to foreigners."

A Chinese soldier has died of the avian flu virus in what appears to be an isolated case.

Tens of thousands of people turned out for a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong to mark the 18th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Europe

Spain's ETA, a Basque separatist group, vows to end its ceasefire at midnight tonight. 

Leaving Prague for the Group of Eight summit in Germany, U.S. President George W. Bush declared that "Russia is not the enemy." But the remark is not likely to make his upcoming talks with Vladimir Putin any easier. And Bush may also find that the welcoming committee in Berlin is not so welcoming, either.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy urged incoming British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to reconsider "outmoded" views about the European Union. 

Middle East

Taking a page from Carole King, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says "it's too late" to put the brakes on Iran's nuclear program. And Iran's foreign minister dismissed U.S. pressure to release Iranian-American scholars that have been charged with plotting to overthrow the Iranian regime.

Kurdish militants killed seven or more Turkish soldiers in eastern Turkey, escalating an already tense situation. On Sunday, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned Turkey against invading the Kurdish region of Iraq.

Insurgents in Iraq released a video purporting to show personal items belonging to three U.S. soldiers who went missing after a May 12 ambush.

Today's Agenda

  • I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former staffer to U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, will be sentenced today in a U.S. District Court for perjury and obstruction of justice. The big question: Will he be pardoned?
  • Republican candidates for U.S. president debate each other tonight in New Hampshire, but all eyes will be on a man who won't be on stage—actor and ex-Senator Fred Thompson.
  • Today is World Environment Day, which is apparently different from Earth Day.
  • It's also the 40th anniversary of Israel's six-day war with Egypt, Jordan and Syria.
  • Estonia's smoking ban, the last in Europe, takes effect in the country's bars and restaurants.

Yesterday on Passport