Thinking MOBILE FIRST: Health and Human Services in the Digital Age.

Author:Bostian, Michael

It's been seven years since Apple told us "there's an app for that," and the famous phrase could not be truer today. The explosion of mobile devices, social media, and digital platforms has fundamentally changed the way that consumers interact with businesses and each other. These same consumers rightly expect to be able to engage with their government agencies how, where, and when they choose.


What does this mean for health and human services agencies? For those ot us still trying to catch up with the definitions of Generation X, Generation Y (also known as Millennials or Echo Boomers), and Generation Z (also known as Centennials, iGeneration, Post-Millennials, Plurals, or Homeland Generation), there are a lot of implications. Familiarity and comfort with the use of technology, including mobile and social media, increases significantly from Generations X to Y to Z.

These generations also show different tendencies in terms of how they view work-life balance, politics, and other social markers. The reliance on technology alone is quite significant. One could simply view Generation X as the generation that first began adapting to technology, Generation Y as the generation that began relying on technology, and Generation Z as the generation that grew up with and expects technology. This shift from adoption to reliance to expectation has implications for our future workforce as well as for the clients we serve.


The use of digital technology is essential to meeting the changing expectations and culture of our society as well as driving the behaviors and responsibilities we expect. It's also becoming an imperative in terms of driving efficiencies and offering better, alternative channels of interactions. A Brookings report from 2012 indicated that government (federal, state, and local) employment had decreased, by more than 580,000 jobs since the close of the prior recession, to the lowest level in more than 30 years. (1) Even more striking, from the same Brookings report, "To examine the direct consequences of lower government employment, consider the case in which employment had hewed to its historical level. Between 2001 and 2007, the average ratio of government employment to population was 9.7 percent. Had that share remained steady, government employment would have been more than 23.6 million in June 2012 as compared to its actual level of 21.9 million. That is, employment would be 1.7 million jobs higher today if the share had remained constant."

We know that public demand for services did not decline and has, in many cases, increased. We are often truly asked to do...

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