Digital Literacy Powers The App Economy

Job growth? There’s apps for that.

Five years ago, there was not one job available in the area of mobile applications. Now, there are nearly one half million. According to a new study by TechNet, as of December 2011 there were approximately 466,000 jobs in the “App Economy” in the United States, up from none the year before the Apple iPhone was introduced.

The study commissioned by TechNet, a bipartisan policy and political network of technology CEOs, counted 311,000 jobs at companies that build apps and another 155,000 at merchants who have expanded their payrolls because of increased spending at their businesses as a result of apps.

The study found App Economy employment to not only be growing, but also spreading. The largest concentration of jobs (9.2%) is in New York City and surrounding suburban counties. San Francisco and San Jose have combined totals (14.8%) that outstrip the Big Apple. California and New York account for almost a third (30.7%) of the employment in the fledgling sector. That means more than two-thirds of App Economy employment is scattered around the rest of the country. States such as Texas, Georgia, Florida, and Illinois are hotbeds of jobs that involve designing, developing and marketing mobile applications. Significant numbers of app jobs also showed up in Philadelphia, Detroit and Phoenix.

“This is a telescope into what the future looks like,” said Dr. Michael Mandel of South Mountain Economics, author of the study. “This is one part of the economy that is actually expanding and hiring. Once you point people in that direction, they can realign their compass pretty quickly.”

Top app jobs include programmers, interface designers, marketers, managers and support staff. The study distinguishes between “pure app firms” such as Zynga and jobs that are app-related, such as certain positions at established digital content companies like Electronic Arts, Amazon, and AT&T. Jobs in the category also include app infrastructure providers at firms such as Google, Apple and Facebook.

“America’s App Economy demonstrates that we can quickly create economic value and jobs through cutting-edge innovation,” said Rey Ramsey, President and CEO of TechNet. “Today, the App Economy is creating jobs in every part of America, employing hundreds of thousands of U.S. workers today and even more in the years to come.”

Conventional employment numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics do not yet track the new sector, so the researchers analyzed information from The Conference Board Help-Wanted OnLine (HWOL) database to estimate the number of jobs in the App Economy.

Chart credit: TechNet (Depicts number of
help-wanted ads for computer and mathematical
occupations that contain the word ‘app’)

Ed. Note: Almost one million apps have been created for the iPhone, iPad and Android. The Apple app store had 529,550 active apps as of December 12, 2011, representing 124,475 active publishers. Android apps passed the 400,000 mark in January.

Already, slightly more than a third of adults in the U.S. have smartphones. Smartphones are likely to be as ubiquitous in a few years as wallets are now. In fact, they are already becoming the wallets of the 21st century.

As technological phenomena go, mobile devices and mobile apps may not be up there with, say, the development of boats and celestial navigation, at least not yet, but there is no question the emerging sector represents one of the juiciest technology plums of the Digital Age.

From a Literacy 2.0 standpoint that means app literacy is destined to be one of the most important digital literacy skills of the age.

The key finding in the study is not that there are so many new design and programming jobs due to apps, the real story is in all the related jobs that the new technology has spawned. 

Being digitally literate means knowing and understanding how to use apps for activities like marketing, communication, socialization and, of course, recreation. It means knowing how to take advantage of the new technologies, personally and in business, to extend, enhance, innovate and improve what you already do. 

The important new literacy is not learning to be an app developer. It is becoming adept at appropriate app application.


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