The Economist  recently wrote about the "workforce in the cloud" and how the global mobile workforce is being tapped by online talent marketplaces like Elance.com and oDesk.com. This has allowed professionals worldwide to compete globally for work and has saved businesses money. Last year, the value for this online work topped $1 billion for the first time and is expected to reach $5 billion by 2018.
These exchanges are providing opportunities to build businesses without borders. The Guardian  reported that a start-up firm, Boutique London Lets, which rents luxury apartments to international business travelers and tourists, has tripled turnover every year for the last three years. The firm used online talent marketplaces to help with recruitment, was able to expand to separate London and Manila offices, and used the “workforce in the cloud” to handle their communications. The owner can keep control of the business while traveling and visiting prospects and staff. The company also uses e-mail, video conferences, online groups, and instant messenger to train staff and is exploring how to create an internal social media network for sharing informal staff interactions.
And this online work can be used to tackle poverty by giving disadvantaged young people a chance to improve their circumstances. Michael Chertoff, founder of Digital Divide Data (DDD), notes in a recent article in the Huffington Post , “While some make the case that outsourcing is just another industry chasing lower wage rates, I've seen something different… DDD pioneered … Impact Sourcing. Impact Sourcing looks beyond the common source of supply for traditional outsourcing to provide higher-income employment, skill development, and access to… individuals who might not otherwise be employed in this sector.” He goes on to say, “In countries including India, the Philippines and the U.S.A., social entrepreneurs are bringing this model to small towns and villages in rural and remote areas to create employment and opportunity.”
What does this mean for the world of work? Answer is that it’s going to be online. Some interesting statistics are shared in this post  by Jessica Stillman on GigaOM:
- By 2020, one in three people will be hired online and will have an online working relationship with their employer.
- Half of businesses will have on-line teams by 2020 – “workforce in the cloud” is a trend that’s growing.
- Global professional guilds will emerge online to represent this global workforce.