Innov8Social is excited to participate in a group blogging event hosted by Meeting of the Minds and urban accelerator Tumml.  It’s an opportunity to delve into a pressing issue from various vantage points, bodies of experience, and life, urban dwellThe question posed in this group blogging session is:

How is technology impacting social and economic divisions in cities?



5 Ways Mobile Technology Impacts the Socio-Econ Divisions in Cities

Cities, large and small, share certain characteristics such as increased population density, parking scarcity, perhaps some form of public transport, usually a higher cost of living, and often rely on sourcing food and water from surrounding areas.  While these characteristics can lead to classic have and have-nots, technology is emerging as a powerful leveling force that can blur socio-economic divisions in some ways, while creating new divisions in other ways.
This post focuses on the far reach and impact mobile technology has on urban areas.

1. Mobile technology provides access. Mobile technology enables access—to resources, news, information, knowledge, and commerce. With a smartphone, app, and network connectivity a person can pay a bill using banking apps, call another country using Skype, FaceTime or Google Talk, expand their vocabulary using edtech apps like Knowji, deposit and transfer funds, make purchases, put in a pickup order for dinner, participate in the sharing economy, share their location, and much more. These kinds of “concierge” services are not allocated based on the communities you engage with or level of wealth—but are broadly available if you know how to use the technology to reach them.

2. Mobile tech creates new channels of distributing products and services.  Gone are the days that a company must budget inordinate sums to reach audiences using traditional channels of media such as billboards, radio ads, television ads, newspaper ads to announce new products and services. Mobile access to social networking apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Yelp, YouTube and others along with mobile tech innovations such as geofencing and QR code reading can help alert you of nearby goods and services.

city life, urban dwellPerhaps most interestingly, you can more easily monetize that which was before non-monetizable. Before if you could pick someone’s dry cleaning, it would be hard to find a market and advertise your skill. But now, all that could be required is downloading the right app and creating a profile.

Mobile tech has the potential to really propel the sharing economy. Car-sharing, home-sharing, office-sharing, popup shops, and so many other resource-sharing services are able to be agile and efficient thanks to mobile tech apps. The instantaneous communication creates new platforms for decisions to be made quickly and payment to be tendered instantaneously.

3. Mobile tech provides new forms of payment. Not only does mobile tech offer new levels of access and channels to learn about products and services—but it gives new ways to pay for them too. There are traditional forms of payment (bank transfers, checking, and credit card), new forms (PayPal and mobile banking), and innovative alternative forms (Bit Coin, and other new alternative currencies).

Mobile technology is disrupting the way we pay for things—and creating more dynamic forms of payment. There are also new apps and websites that enable equitable bartering so you can exchange a block of your time and expertise in social media savvy for another’s time and know-how in home contracting work.

4. Mobile tech creates new barriers and concerns. While reducing traditional socio-economic barriers, mobile tech also creates new ones. Smartphones can be costly and the high monthly fees can be prohibitive. And the challenge is that there is no in-between without a smartphone or tablet an individual loses access to all of the benefits. Just as there are homeless shelters there may be a need for mobile tech centers for individuals to access and utilize mobile tech advances, learning, and apps.

Additionally, mobile technology creates new security concerns. A smarphone, logged into all of your email and social media accounts, that contains banking information, all of your contacts, and text message conversations is a prime target.

5. Mobile tech and a new kind of illiteracy. Innov8Social recently delved into issues of literacy in the U.S. and innovative tech responses to address the divide. Interestingly, mobile tech highlights a new kind of illiteracy–technological illiteracy. For the elderly or those otherwise not familiar with how to use mobile technology, the world could become more overwhelming and frustrating.

And with new updates being released regularly, even those who have a basic level of understanding, may feel inundated with advancing technology.

We are in a transformational time for mobile technology. Advances in science are letting us use mobile devices for new purposes—such as monitoring our health, managing our finances, communicating effectively, and participating in the broader economy. With that great potential comes cautious acceleration. We must guard our safety and privacy as we move forward and find new and better ways to address pressing urban issues.

    What should we write about next?

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