Q&A: TIA on mobile technology and Baby Boomers

Thursday, 17 July 2014 10:44am

Media Access Australia spoke to Brian Scarpelli, Director, Government Affairs at the US Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) following his chairing of a session on mobile technology and Baby Boomers at this year’s M-Enabling Conference.

Media Access Australia: What is the adoption of mobile devices and applications by seniors? How big is the market?

Brian Scarpelli: In early June 2014, the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) led a session at the 2014 M-Enabling Global Summit that examined this topic. The session was titled ‘The Mobile Baby Boomers Opportunity: Emerging Trends’. Panellists included the Pew Research Center, the Consumer Electronics Association, Microsoft, T-Mobile USA and Samsung Telecommunications America. This session discussed emerging success patterns for the adoption of mobile apps and web services by seniors, reviewed the latest research available on the usage of mobile applications and services by seniors, and explored some of the most important success factors in addressing this burgeoning market place. The session also discussed the unique characteristics of specific senior demographic groups and how they may be reached differently, and session participants engaged with M-Enabling conference attendees on the session topic through questions and answers.

The data presented during this session proved that the senior market is a priority for ICT manufacturers generally, and that it also represents a great opportunity for market growth (for example, please see the attached slides from one of the panellists from the Pew Research Center). Towards this end, ICT manufacturers are increasingly consulting with the ageing community (as well as other consumer groups) to inform their research and development and product cycles.

How does seniors’ use of mobile technology differ from the rest of the population?

The largest barrier which is likely unique to seniors’ use of mobile technology is due to technology literacy, resistance to uptake, etc. However, as time goes on and generations shift, we are finding that uptake of mobile technology by seniors is increasing. This said, as people age, they may develop some disabilities that are not at all unique to the ageing community, such as low vision or hearing loss. In this way, the markets for those with disabilities and the ageing also have some commonalities.

What are the accessibility needs of senior citizens? Do these differ from the needs of other users?

Specific needs for seniors center around technology literacy and, for some, attitudinal (e.g., may not see the need for the use of newer mobile ICT). However, for seniors with disabilities, their needs may be quite similar to non-senior communities with those same disabilities.

What specific things do app developers need to do to better address the needs of seniors?

TIA does not believe that there are glaring deficiencies in the approach taken by application developers generally to address the needs of seniors. TIA believes that application developers should continue to conduct outreach to senior consumers (through focus groups, etc.) to ensure that they can clearly identify market opportunities and the needs of all consumers making up their target market.

What specific things do device manufacturers need to do to better address the needs of seniors?

TIA does not believe that there are glaring deficiencies in the approach taken by device manufacturers generally to address the needs of seniors. TIA believes that device manufacturers should continue to conduct outreach to senior consumers (through focus groups, etc.) to ensure that they can clearly identify market opportunities and the needs of all consumers making up their target market. By and large, the ICT manufacturer community is already conducting much of this outreach today to inform increasingly shorter product cycles as they compete in the global ICT market.


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