Post CES reflection on role of technology and Alzheimer's.
Boston, mid-May, 2016
Social Security has a smart phone app. Never one to be behind the technology times, Social Security has announced the availability of a smart phone site, noting that 35 million page views come via smart phones -- over what period, how many repeats, we can only guess. The site must be a work in process, however. Before I could even type my password into MySocialSecurity, a message informed me that the information which I had not yet requested was best viewed on a desktop. No kidding. There are more options and tidbits of information on the desktop site than on the mobile site, including the non-trivial process of applying for benefits. On a phone would be a study in persistence in the face of daunting obstacles. But life is good: "phone users can connect with Social Security on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest." Whew, if we couldn’t connect through Pinterest, I just don’t know what we’d do.
Let’s pause for a moment of realism. First of all, without their mobile app, those of us with smart phones could still wander around the Social Security desktop version without the mobile app – the way we can view desktop versions of the weather and read the news without a dedicated software development project to produce a variant for phones. But now smart phones are hot and desktops are dead right? Well, not exactly. In the US, there are 310 million PCs in current use. (There are only 312 million people.) Now let’s look at the beneficiaries of Social Security – of the 54 million beneficiaries, aka where the money disburses, 38.9 million of them are 65+. Do you think they would freak out if Social Security didn’t offer a smart phone site? Or connect on Twitter and Pinterest (where only 2 percent of the users are 65+)?
Social Security’s mission is subject to their interpretation. Reality checks may find an older user, but like so many senior-aware organizations, marketing must acknowledge the young. So here it is, from the About page: "Deliver Social Security services that meet the changing needs of the public." The definition of 'changing' must be a topic for regular software and IT modification planning meetings. They agree, phones, YouTube, etc., are where the young are. On YouTube, you can watch the video "Social Security: What’s In it for Me?" How millennial. Of the 80 million in this age bracket out there, only 3 thousand of them have viewed the video, but it is early. And following Social Security on Twitter – linking to the YouTube video "Is your baby’s name on the list of most popular baby names?" 11,781 followers, but again, it is early.
This is all about money. Apparently Social Security believes it will be cheaper to serve up info via the smart phone: "With significant budget cuts of nearly a billion dollars each year over the last few years, we must continue to leverage technology and find more innovative ways to meet the evolving needs of the American public without compromising service," said Acting Commissioner Colvin. Translation perhaps – over time, we will shut offices (like the closed West Palm Beach!!!), reduce traditional phone support, eliminate paper materials, including statements and checks, and switch to what we believe are lower-cost channels. But it must be someone else’s job to ensure that the 65+ are online and smart phone ready – the Social Security Administration is busy.