Mobile Devices Become Lifeline to the Poor and Homeless
As surprising as it sounds, tablets and smartphones are fast becoming an essential item for the millions of homeless and poor people in the US, who are increasingly using handheld devices to access services and resources in a way never seen before.
This trend towards smartphone dependency, which has been well-documented in a number of recent studies, is having a profound impact on non-profit organizations. The need for a responsive website (one that provides the optimal viewing experience for users whether they’re on a laptop, tablet, or smartphone) has become an even greater priority for non-profits if they are to continue to meet the needs of those they serve via new media.
Service providers everywhere are realizing the importance – and benefits – of communicating with their audiences effectively via mobile devices, as increasing numbers of disenfranchised people turn to smartphones and tablets to access health care, legal services, shelter services, food programs, and potential employers.
For many poor and homeless people, the smartphone is their only means of accessing information, getting online, and connecting with those who can support them, whether they are friends and family or social service providers. Low income and less educated Americans, young adults, and non-whites are more likely to rely on their smartphone for services and information. 15% of smartphone owners say they have limited options for going online other than their cell phone (source: Pew Study 2015). So for those in need of support from non-profit organizations, their tablet or smartphone is fast becoming a survival tool.
The rising popularity of mobile devices has undoubtedly changed our lives; the use of smartphones and tablets among Americans alone increased from 56% in 2013 to 64% by the end of 2014 (source: Pew Study). And where the use of these handheld devices had once been the clear domain of the middle and upper classes, the low-income sector (those making $30,000 a year or less) are now catching up, with usage reported at 50%. What is striking are the figures for those who fall well below the poverty level, namely the homeless, who are completely reliant on their mobile device for Internet access, with 62% of homeless teens making up that share (source: USC Study).
Healthcare: 62% of smartphone owners have used their phone in the past year to find information about a health condition (source: Pew Study 2015) and 71% of Emergency Department patients experiencing homelessness own cell phones (source: Yale/New York University Study).
Ethnicity: Smartphone dependency rose dramatically among non-whites, with 12% of African Americans and 13% of Latinos smartphone-dependent, compared to just 4% of whites (source: Pew Study 2015).
Employment: 18% of smartphone users have submitted a job application (source: Pew Study 2015) and 36% of homeless teens use the phone to call current or potential employers (source: USC Study).
Resources: 39% of smartphone owners have used it in the past year to access government services or information (source: Pew Study 2015).
With responsive websites achieving greater conversions rates, being given Google rankings priority, and providing a more user-friendly experience overall, a mobile-device optimized website should now be the greatest priority of non-profit organizations.
Author: Laura Garton | Chaffington Marketing Communications