Call center workers here, new telecom tech in India

What if U.S. workers increasingly wind up on the consuming end of technology created abroad?

A pair of news items Tuesday makes one less sanguine about U.S. jobs in an offshoring era.

Research firm IDC reports that a number of companies are getting workers to handle calls from their homes as a way to meet call center challenges. So-called "homeshoring" with U.S. workers can avoid a potential pitfall of sending such work overseas, IDC suggests: foreign agents who are unfamiliar with U.S. customers.

Keeping more call-center tasks in the United States as opposed to India may be all well and good for American workers. But a story on India-based Web site Rediff.com suggests more critical work in the telecommunications field is heading to India. According to the site, Bell Labs, the famed research and development arm of Lucent Technologies, will set up a research unit in Bangalore, India.

"The mission of Bell Labs Research, India will be to conduct fundamental research in scientific fields related to computing and communications software and to create the underlying technology innovations that will enable telecom service providers to deploy and manage high-speed, highly reliable networks," the article states.

Lucent is hardly alone among technology companies sending research tasks abroad. And the Bangalore center, expected to start with about 10 researchers, initially will be a small part of 16,000-person strong Bell Labs.

But the upshot of the news is cutting-edge telecommunications research in India may result in technology used by those U.S. "homeshoring" workers.

For years, the opposite situation has held true: U.S. workers generated many of the innovations used by people in other countries.

Can the U.S. economy be healthy for its citizens and workers if they increasingly wind up on the consuming end of technology created abroad?

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