America’s obsession with various high tech innovations such as the smartphone and tablet, and its “got-to-have-an-app-for-everything” attitude, has led to the demand and creation of about 500,000 apps and apparently, just as many jobs.
Last week, TechNet, a bipartisan network of CEOs and Senior Executives that promotes the growth of technology- led innovation, released a study titled Where the Jobs Are: The App Economy. The report suggested that the high tech industry’s “app economy” spurred nearly a half-million jobs since its inception in 2007.
TechNet’s Vice President for Research John Horrigan said there is not a lot of research on the App Economy, so the study underscores a lot of demand and innovation for the high tech industry, as well as its importance to the broadband ecosystem.
Not all of the app jobs are in Silicon Valley
One of the study’s most surprising findings according to Horrigan was that “app jobs are not terribly location-dependent.”
The results of the report authored by South Mountain Economics President Dr. Michael Mandel indicated “people think of the App Economy as being centered in Silicon Valley, because that’s the headquarters of the core firms—Apple, Google, and Facebook.…But judging by the location of want ads, the App Economy is widely distributed around the country.”
The top ten states for App Economy jobs according to the analysis included California—which leads the nation in apps jobs—New York, Washington, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, Georgia, Virginia, and Florida.
Coincidentally, of the top 10 states cited in the study, each has a minority population that accounts for at least 30 percent of its total population, according to the 2010 Census.
Barriers of entry are low for app economy, but still high for underrepresented populations
“The barriers to entry are low in the app economy,” Horrigan said. “All you need is a computer, software, and broadband.…We’re going to see app jobs popping up all over the country.”
Horrigan also added that there needs to be an increase in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) graduates because the app economy is mainly about acquiring skills to do the coding to develop and produce the software for app devices.
Despite the facts about needing a computer, software, and broadband, the lack of advanced computer and mathematical education, computer ownership, and broadband adoption are still obstacles preventing many groups from becoming major players in the high tech field.
According to Horrigan, the demographical statistics of the app economy have yet to be studied. However, since the app economy is a sector of the high tech industry that demands workers with mathematical and computer skills, it may not be far-fetched to imagine that its workforce could possibly reflect the demographics of the overall industry.
According to the Minority media and Telecommunication’s Council’s 2011 Minorities & Hi Tech Employment report, “Minorities, particularly African Americans, Hispanics, and women, remain sorely underrepresented across the high tech sector…”
Further, MMTC’s report referenced that when it came to the composition of the nation’s high tech computer and mathematical workers between 2006 and 2008, African Americans represented 7 percent of the workforce, Hispanics represented 5 percent, Asians represented 16 percent, and women represented 27 percent. On the other hand, whites represented 70 percent of the entire workforce.
The same underrepresented groups in the computer and mathematical jobs also lag nationally in computer ownership as well as broadband adoption.
A 2011 National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) report found that 35 percent of African Americans, 34 percent of Hispanics, and 26 percent of women did not own a computer, while just 14 percent of Asians, 20 percent of whites, and 21 percent of men reported not owning one.
In addition, NTIA’s analysis indicated that while 81 percent of Asians, 72 percent of whites, and 71 percent of men adopted broadband, only 56 percent of African Americans, 57 percent of Hispanics, and 65 percent of women adopted.
The Future of the app economy remains uncertain
“America’s app economy—which had zero jobs just five years ago before the iPhone was introduced—demonstrates that we can quickly create economic value and jobs through cutting-edge innovation,” said TechNet President and CEO Rey Ramsey in a statement.
But are these jobs just a fad?
Horrigan said that it is hard to predict the future with an evolving industry like the app economy. A recent USAToday article reported that some smartphone owners are ignoring the apps on their phones.
According to the article, “The appeal of instantly downloading the latest apps…loses its luster quickly, industry data show.” An app industry representative stated, “We are constantly deleting them,” but the article pointed out that “the ones with staying power really do stick. Android phone users spend about 90 minutes a day on their phone, about two-thirds of that on apps….We see a very familiar behavior with (iPhone users),” citing information from a Nielsen representative.
The App Economy has room and many opportunities for everyone
“The App Economy, along with the broad communications sector, has been a leading source of hiring strength in an otherwise sluggish labor market,” Mandel said in TechNet’s press statement.
Additionally, the app economy is not limited to app developers and users—which is good news for those who want to be a part of the booming app economy but simply do not have an interest in gaining the computer and mathematical skills to develop the apps. According to the TechNet–sponsored study, “[E]ach app represents jobs—for programmers, for user interface designers, for marketers, for managers, [and] for support staff.”
With educational advancement in STEM areas, an increase in computer and software ownership, and increases in broadband adoption, traditionally underrepresented groups within the high tech industry can become app economy entrepreneurs and small business owners by creating jobs for themselves and other people. They can also search for the existing app economy want ads located on the comprehensive, detailed, and up-to-the-minute database on The Conference Board Help-Wanted OnLine® (HWOL) Web site, which was used to compile the data for the Where the Jobs Are report.
Overall, while the app economy is still a strong industry with low barriers to entry, everyone aspiring to become app creators can do so.
Tiffany K. Bain is a 2011 public relations graduate of Florida A&M University. She currently serves as the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council’s Research Associate. She got her start in the industry in 2007 as an Emma L. Bowen Foundation intern at the nation’s leading cable provider.