Outsourcing Is Reshaping the Philippines' Cities

The ability to outsource all kinds of business processes is creating massive, vertical company towns in the suburbs.
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Outsourcing is, in some ways, an old story: Cheap labor pulls in global corporations in search of profits. 

But it's playing out in diverse ways in different countries and industries.

Recently, the creation of what I call cyborg telemarketers drew my attention to the burgeoning call center and outsourcing scene in the Philippines. But the scale of the phenomenon continues to astound me. 

Megaworld, a developer that creates properties for "business process outsourcing" (BPO) companies is investing $5 billion into creating 10 "townships" for these corporations and their workers. 

Those townships will constitute some 16 million new square feet of office space over the next ten years, according to Bloomberg. But the offices are merely the centerpieces of entire planned communities of homes and shops. 

BPO workers need to live close to their offices because they are usually operating on the time of another country, probably one halfway across the world. And the shops they frequent, I assume, must also understand that the place is operating in (at least) two time zones at once. 

Megaworld is following the model set by its development called Eastwood, a 40-acre site eight miles from the center of Manila that draws 100,000 people every day. 

"Megaworld is duplicating Eastwood in six other parts of Manila," Bloomberg reports, "and building other developments in Lapu Lapu, Iloilo and Davao, cities in central and southern Philippines."

The sites will be dense and tall, casting long shadows over the rest of the low-slung Manila suburbs, just like Eastwood does now. 

Who knows what will become of areas like this in 40 years, but for now, they're as distinctive a marker of a certain kind of business (and technical) operation as the smoke stacks of the Rust Belt or the sloped roofs of Pizza Hut.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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