The desire to connect whenever we want, wherever we are has created a unique opportunity for the private sector to capture new markets as they work to fulfill our desire for ubiquitous connectivity. The growth in mobile ICT technology is profound and shows little signs of slowing down.
While many people might take for granted the ability to navigate an app on a smart phone or tablet to check a bank balance, make a reservation at a restaurant or interact with our social networks, there is a large portion of the world’s population, both persons with disabilities (PwDs) and the aging, that find using a mobile device to be a significant challenge.
In planning a mobile engagement strategy it is vital that both public and private sector organizations consider accessibility and usability in their design and implementation. From a regulatory perspective, many governments are making accessibility a requirement, but there is an emerging market imperative that is making it an important consideration for key industries like government, education, healthcare, banking, insurance and retail.
Experts estimate that people age 65+ will comprise 20 percent of the population in most industrialized nations by 2025 and the number of PwDs is estimated at 1.3 billion, making this market equivalent to the market size of China.
Whole industries are being transformed as mobile becomes a catalyst for changing the dynamics around how people interact, conduct commerce and even learn. The imperative to secure these applications and make them accessible will drive a lot of innovation in the near future. Standard pass codes that are typed in will give way to more secure authentication that could range from biometrics to voice recognition.
What might not be clearly understood is that mobile solutions that work for seniors and PwDs, like text-to speech, voice recognition or GPS-based technologies, will benefit all mobile users when dealing with environmental or situational limitations. As such, accessible solutions are an important consideration for the mobile industry as a whole, becoming an essential differentiator and competitive advantage.
For example, industries like banking could realize a competitive advantage when they make mobile operations fully accessible and secure, allowing their clients to interact with their services whenever they want, wherever they are and regardless of their age or physical ability. What about the profound benefit that could be realized for healthcare when anyone could securely access their medical records and send them on to doctors of their choice through a mobile device?
IBM's researchers and product developers are already working on how we can help clients develop and deploy applications that are robust, secure and accessible. We are just at the beginning of this journey but we know that factors around mobile, accessibility and usability are converging quickly.
IBM recently participated in the M-Enabling Global Summit with leaders across the public and private sectors about the important linkages between mobility and accessibility. You can watch replays of some of the sessions here.