KU provost touts outsourcing

It may seem frightening, but outsourcing is a good thing, Kansas University Provost Richard Lariviere said Friday.

“It is good for the U.S. economy,” he said. “It is unavoidable. We can’t not do this.”

Lariviere turned a conversation about global trends in information technology outsourcing into a call for support for education during a speech to about 70 people Friday at Alvamar Country Club.

The new KU provost and executive vice chancellor, formerly an administrator at the University of Texas-Austin, drew from his experience with eMR Technology Ventures, a business outsourcing company. Lariviere and a UT colleague formed the consulting firm in the mid-1990s. He remains a board member.

Lariviere said outsourcing can be vital for American companies.

“If you’re not outsourcing, you’re going to die,” he said. “I can give you the names of people in Austin, Texas, who didn’t believe this. Those companies don’t exist anymore.”

Outsourcing benefits companies by lowering costs, freeing up domestic resources for other purposes and helping American companies stay competitive – and it’s not stealing jobs, he said.

“What we’re really seeing here is not job loss, but temporary job displacement in a dynamic flow of work throughout the world,” he said.

How should the United States respond to the job displacement? Education is the answer, he said.

He pointed to the GI Bill.

“The very reason we have been able to move up the value chain for the last 50 years as dramatically and as effectively as we have been able to is because in 1944 the United States said, ‘When all these boys come back from overseas, we’re going to provide them with a free education,'” he said. “It transformed this economy.

“If we don’t continue at that scale to invest in that kind of education, we’re going to lose, because the Indians and the Chinese are investing in their education.”

Raffaele DeVito, Emporia State University management professor and chairman of the Kansas International Trade Coordinating Council, was among those who attended the event.

“What we have to do is to ask ourselves, ‘Where do we want to be 20 years from now?'” DeVito said. “What do we want our next generation to be able to do in terms of technology, engineering, science? That’s education. That’s where the commitment is. That’s where the investment is.”

The event was organized by Kansas International, the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce and the KU Center for International Business Education and Research.