More Than Just a Phone

Mobile apps are no longer limited to serving as distractions while waiting for the train, the bus or the end of a painfully dry webinar.  GEICO’s recent commercial asked, “Do people use smart phones to do dumb things?”  The answer is most likely, yes.  The tide, however, is shifting to the other end of the spectrum where people are using their smartphones to not only do smart things, but the right thing.

Smartphones are more than just a phone, they are becoming a lifeline that could keep a family from going hungry and mobile apps are becoming a more relevant way to connect people to the resources that they need.You may be asking yourself, If someone needs help finding a meal how is an app found on a smartphone going to help? Aren’t smartphones expensive?  The answer comes in a few different ways.

#1) The use of smartphones is growing in lower-income communities.

Smartphones, while popularly associated with younger populations are being utilized by a variety of generations as well as communities.  As Amy Gahran mentions in this CNN Tech article, “Feature phones are especially popular in low-income communities and among seniors.”  The Wall Street Journal covered a story about how smartphone are bridging the digital divide.  While many people have several devices to connect them to the internet (PC, iPad, smartphone, etc.), people in low-income communities do not have a multitude of technology choices.  According to Lucy Hood, the mobile devices used in low-income communities serve as a person’s primary way to access the internet.  So without the luxury of a PC at home, smartphones are becoming more critical to accessing information online.

#2) The look of poverty in America is changing.  Poverty is not limited to the gritty images once associated with the term.

People in poverty may be your next door neighbor who is struggling. According to this recent Chicago Tribune article, of the 32,000 people who sought assistance from People’s Resource Center, over a third of them sought assistance for the first time.   The Tribune article also highlights how young single adults do not make enough money to live in their own, “‘In the spring of 2011, 14.2 percent of the 25- to 34-year-olds in the U.S, were living in their parents’ homes… That is 5.9 million young adults. If we didn’t count parents’ income, 45.3 percent would qualify as being poor.'”  If they did not have the help of their parents, they too might be looking for assistance from places like People’s Resource Center.

The last thing a person wants to do in a time of need is struggle to find the resources that could be right around the corner.  Not providing that resource on someone’s smartphone would be a “dumb thing”.

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