Thriving in a mobile-first society
The Apple Event’s live stream logged 26 million views within days after it was posted on YouTube on Sept. 7, unveiling the tech company’s latest lineup of flagship phones and accessories. That’s a lot of people taking time out of their day. A new device is exciting, to be sure, but it’s not just consumerism and brand loyalty at work here.
To me, this indicates that development in the mobile technology industry is deemed important in the everyday lives of a lot of people around the world. This is the kind of news that people feel will affect them directly, because we’re living a digital lifestyle and using the internet daily for work, play and communication.
For many, the mobile device is their gateway into the digital world. Mobile devices and services overall are more affordable now than ever, expanding access to digital services and further accelerating its advancement.
According to the Ericsson Mobility Report released in November 2021, there was a 300-fold increase in mobile data traffic since 2011, representing an additional 5.5 billion smartphone users in the same time frame.
Meanwhile, data analyzed by Ericsson shows that in the third quarter of 2021, mobile network data traffic was up 42 percent from the previous year.
We’re at the point now where whole societies, including both government and private sectors, are digital. Public services are available online and, in many cases, citizens are encouraged to go online instead of to the brick-and-mortar office. For example, for many years now Social Security Administration services have been available online, and retirees are encouraged to have an online account to manage and monitor their benefits.
For now, the easiest way to access these online public services is with a computer or laptop, but with the steady increase of mobile device usage, I predict it’s only a matter of time before agencies set up mobile apps.
As more transactions move online with little or no physical interaction, the ability to prove identity in a digital form will become crucial. Digital identities and currencies might someday be the norm.
Today, we never leave home without an ID. Someday, we will never leave without our smartphone and not because we’re addicted to social media, but because we will need it to make purchases and enter certain buildings.
Asia and Africa are often named as mobile-first markets. In South Korea, for one, mobile devices made up 87 percent of devices used to access e-government services in 2021, according to data released by the country’s Ministry of Interior and Safety in the GSMA Digital Societies in Asia-Pacific 2022 report.
Earlier this year, the Philippine Statistics Agency announced it plans to issue 20 billion digital IDs as part of its national digitalization strategy.
For businesses of all sizes, digital technologies and services can help provide new growth opportunities. In addition to making business information, products and services available online, businesses can get ahead of the curve by keeping mobile at the center of digitalization.
This mobile-first strategy involves ensuring that a business’s website is optimized for mobile or by considering investing in its own mobile application. Online communication for both customer service and marketing is a must. Social media offer platforms that are a cost-effective way get good results.
In their operations, many businesses are already leveraging digital communications such as email or WhatsApp. Businesses may want to further create a mobile workplace by making mobile phones the main form of communication and ditching landlines altogether. This could result in cost savings. Unified communications systems that blend traditional and mobile communications are also available to businesses. These systems connect PBX systems, computers, and mobile devices so that employees can securely access communications from anywhere.
The integration of mobile technology into business operations may also lead to changes in work styles. Now that mobile technology has made it easier to work from anywhere, many professionals in industries that do not require physical interactions are finding it more fulfilling to achieve work-life integration rather than work-life balance, in which work commitments and personal matters are separate. That’s a whole different discussion that businesses may need to have with their human resource department and decision-makers.
As with most things, there are roadblocks to an increasingly digital and mobile lifestyle that need to be addressed. Security and privacy are ongoing concerns. There will always be those that look for ways to exploit others. Organizations that offer digital services do have to take steps to protect users’ information by investing in secure payment or data collection systems.
Meanwhile, individuals will have to stay vigilant by being mindful of whom they share sensitive information with and by double-checking a website’s legitimacy. In addition, parents need to be proactive in teaching children how to be safe on their devices, including how to identify and address cyberbullying.
There continues to be a digital divide, which is the gap between those who have access to digital technology and those who do not. This often leads to a lack of digital literacy and the skills needed to participate in a digital society. Factors that contribute to the gap include limited access to networks due to geography, financial barriers, and even a lack of motivation to use technology.
Despite these challenges, mobile technology will continue to play a significant role in how we live and work in the future, that much is certain. To thrive in a mobile-first society, we must be ready to adapt to and embrace change.
Jay R. Shedd is executive vice president of Citadel Pacific, the parent company of PTI Pacific Inc. which does business as IT&E, IP&E. He has more than 30 years of experience in the telecommunications industry, business development, sales and marketing.