You can apply for a job on LinkedIn's mobile app. But why on earth would you do that?— Dan Gillmor (@dangillmor) August 6, 2013
Millions of Americans rely on their mobile devices for internet access. 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies only advertise their job postings online. Without equal access to the internet, low-income Americans find the tools for escaping poverty increasingly out of reach.
If your other options were:
- Spending an hour on the bus to use the computer at the library (with a 30 minute time limit)
- Fighting your way through an online application form that was designed for the desktop on your mobile phone
- Not filling out that job application at all
“Why would anyone want to use the internet differently from the way I use the internet?” is a point of view that holds us back. People who are privileged to have access to a broadband internet connection at home and work, who never need to use the internet at the library, who never rely on their mobile devices for complex tasks, argue that there is simply no need to improve access for those who lack those advantages.
“Why would someone ever want to do that?” is the wrong question. It doesn’t matter why they want to do it. The fact is that people do. The right question, the one that we all should be asking, is “how can we make a better experience for them?” What if every organization followed Luke Wroblewski’s advice for improving input and forms on mobile? What if every organization made all of their content readable, browsable, and findable on mobile?
In the US, organizations like Connect2Compete provide low-cost internet access, while sister organization EveryoneOn helps educate and build digital literacy. These organizations help people get access to education, jobs, and services.
But assuming digital literacy means only desktop use ignores the fact that millions of Americans rely on their mobile phones for access. College applications, job opportunities, or government services shouldn’t be limited only to people who have a screen the same size as yours and a “real” keyboard. Instead of mocking people who need to apply for jobs using the LinkedIn mobile app, we should be asking what else they want to do on mobile.