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Mobile Under the Microscope

Mobile use and penetration has grown tremendously in the US in the past decade. In 2010, wireless penetration in the US was at 96%, compared to 38% in 2000. With over 70% of American cell phone owners sending or receiving text messages and nearly 40% using cell phones to access the internet, mobile technology is being used to communicate and exchange information more than ever before.

Cell phones provide portable access to information in rural and urban communities, to minority groups, and to historically underserved populations helping to bridge the information divide. In fact, cell phone ownership and the use of mobile data applications are greater in the African-American and Hispanic populations than the white, non Hispanic population. SMS and mobile phone services command this market, connecting minorities to vital information.

For smart-phone users, cities throughout the US are developing apps to provide information to tourists, allow individuals to easily, access data about their surroundings, and report local incidents. Though rural mobile apps lag behind urban apps in quantity, development of apps for rural areas is slowly growing. Yet, as a recent Vision Mobile study points out, there is “a lack of localized apps for most regions” and a “lack of localization tools for developers.”

As mobile increasingly infects the lives of [nearly] every American, the way by which we behave and conduct our work is changing. Mobile apps brought us Twitter and linked cell phone users to the world of social networking beyond smart-phone penetration, but they are also affecting the way we work and engage as citizens.

Mobile applications have already started to target specific communities within the US to provide services; however there is a severe lack of apps providing official government information to the public, particularly targeting minority communities. By taking advantage of strong mobile penetration rates in minority groups and producing apps that target minority populations, there is the potential to further enfranchise historically disenfranchised and underserved groups.

Currently, the Voting Information Project mobile page helps to connect smart-phone users to voting information around election time, as does the Politics-360 VoterHub app. New apps sprout up every day and we are excited to see what will be developed next. If you have an idea for an app or are interested in developing an app that uses VIP data, let us know.

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