I first coined the term Virtual Onshoring in an Open Letter I wrote to Paul Kagame of Rwanda, in 2008. The idea is simply that with power of the Internet, we are now a “global village”, and anyone who has intellectual goods or services in a developing nation, can sell them to customers in more developed nations, in a manner that would be no different than if they were actually located in the developed nation. This could be very lucrative in the online higher education market, since the University of Phoenix alone makes over a 1/2 billion dollars per year in profit!
My original letter to Paul Kagame was part of a scholarship I was trying to earn for my Masters degree. I never received a reply from the scholarship, nor from anyone in Rwanda. I have shared the idea a few other times with institutions and others, such as comment I made on an Economist article. But, it has thus far not received any traction. Which goes to show that while one can share something that everyone on the internet can read, most of the time few to no one will read, and so it is a whisper in the void.
But, I haven’t given up on the idea, as it seems so simple and easy, that any sufficiently Internet connected developing nation could utilize it for dramatic economic benefit. And one of the easiest ways would be in Higher Education. There are some doing this, but not putting a lot of resources into it, and maybe are doing it at a loss. For example, I’m completing my doctorate online through the University of South Africa. As I posted about yesterday, my Research Proposal Module cost under $300. This is DIRT CHEAP. And while much of this is due to the exchange rate between the South African Rand and the U.S. Dollar, I also believe that South Africa is subsidizing part of these costs, which would ultimately be a losing proposition for them.
But what if they (or another university in a developing country) were to raise rates sufficiently for U.S. customers, to make a profit, yet still be able to undercut most U.S. universities prices because of the exchange rate, and lower cost of living in South Africa? And if they started to advertise their product better in the U.S. This could lead to a significant net inflow of money to South Africa, which then could help subsidize better education for native South Africans, and it would also increase the number of intellectual jobs in the nation, which means that when students got a higher education in South Africa, they would have job opportunities afterwards.
But how can a developing nation break into the U.S. market, in which they could potentially earn millions of dollars? The secret is to start with branding, and utilizing existing national brands. I will talk more about this in tomorrow’s blog post.