- - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

“Necessity is the mother of invention” is a phrase with no known author, but it has been adopted by many people. Some give Plato credit, but the reality is closer to the English coining the term. The American Heritage Dictionary says the saying appeared first in English about 1519 in the form of “Need taught him wit.” By the middle of the 16th Century “Necessity is the mother of invention” was a well worn adage in England.

American business is always looking for the next big thing. That search is like a need, a necessity in order to keep the nation’s economy humming and businesses growing.

There are many poor neighborhoods in the U.S. that could use some of that economic growth. Such a boost could benefit the greater fiscal climate. Part of a solution to increasing entrepreneurial activity in depressed areas and especially among teenagers could be to harness the untapped powers of the mobile phone and the smartphone. It can happen. Actually, it has already happened in various parts of Africa.

In his article on mobile phones in Africa the Annenberg Center’s Adam Clayton Powell showed how mobile and smartphones are being used for purposes that were never intended initially. For instance, the Africa Health Network reaches 50 million people weekly. Vital health information is passed to cellphones for women needing health care. Africa farmers use cellphones for assistance with crops and of course the cellphone is playing a major role in the transactions of money in some African nations.

Since American teens use a small percentage of their smartphone capacity for things like texting, video, snapchat, Facebook, Vine and the like, then there remains plenty of computing power left over for things like building practical apps or applications like what is seen in Africa.

In 2013 Cherise Morris of Charlottesville, Virginia used the power of her smartphone to do all of her school work. Her family could not afford personal computers so the smartphone was her avenue to academic success. Morris used her smartphone for all of her college applications, scholarships applications and homework. She was later accepted to Brown University on a full scholarship.

What else can be done with the smartphone? What teen in which community will use the phone to spread an app that actually provides a service for which people will pay? A study by Willowtree Apps says that households earning less that $30,000 per year have a 22% smartphone usage. Households making up to $50,000 have a 40% smartphone ownership rate. Most low income teens access the Internet through their smartphones.

American businesses in various communities should seek out students who can be trained and encouraged to find new ways of using the smartphone and apps for the betterment of the community and to create businesses. Plenty of corporations like Apple, Intel and Microsoft travel to urban high schools to provide computers and other technologies. Maybe some companies should start focusing on the basics of building apps on smartphones.

Willie Sutton said he robbed banks because that is where the money is. If corporate America wants to increase its bottom line then they should go where the smartphones are and teach the basics of business and app development.

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