Remember the story of Nick D'Aloisio? He's the entrepreneurial 17 year-old who sold his app, Summly, to Yahoo! for tens of millions. If it wasn't for our propensity to download apps at a growing rate, he'd probably be delivering the newspapers like other teenagers, rather than creating an app for condensing digital news. In the UK alone, 64% of mobile users have smartphones, driving a huge demand for apps. Globally, we can choose from around 1 million apps to download from a variety of different stores. We love technology: we're living in the age of Geek Chic. And yet there's still a gap between the number of IT graduates, and the number of roles businesses need to fill. Is the App Economy the solution to helping us bridge this gap? Or do we still, in reality, not know our apps from our elbow?
In terms of contributing to the economy at a European level, last year, €10.3 billion worth of app-related products and services were produced in the EU. The global app economy has been forecast to rise to US$143 billion in three years' time. Apps have carved out their own dynamic, transformational sector. Over half a million jobs across Europe are now directly related to the App Economy, according to a report released earlier this month by Vision Mobile and Plum Consulting.
In enterprise, mobile apps continue to transform the landscape and corporate app stores are predicted to reach 'critical mass' in the next 18 to 24 months, says IDC. With 4G and 5G, cloud computing and mobile device ownership forecast to become almost-universal, the opportunities raised by the apps market will continue to snowball. Technology is a breeding ground for innovation, and there has never been a time more full of promise for the 'apptrepreneur'.
We're raising a generation of digital natives, of smart, savvy, bright, motivated children and teenagers. Technology in schools has moved on since the days when we spent an hour learning programming to create a rotating, colour-changing line on the screen (not one of my most useful life skills picked up at school, I have to admit), and technology in the home is an intrinsic part of everyday life.
Why is there a shortage of IT graduates to fill technology roles? Perhaps because IT is second nature, so school leavers don't feel they don't need to learn more about it at university. Or maybe, despite Geek Chic, IT courses need an image overhaul. Perhaps, though, it's time we turned this on its head. Maybe businesses should begin to look beyond purely recruiting technology graduates. I'm not by any means suggesting we overlook graduates: on the contrary, my organisation runs a popular graduate scheme and prides itself on its intelligent, impressive new starters and the opportunities they're given. I'm suggesting that less emphasis is placed on university courses, and more time vested in encouraging and investing in tomorrow's entrepreneurs, at schools, colleges and continuing in the workplace.
When I think of specific entrepreneurs, including the clearly outstanding Nick as mentioned earlier, all seem to have shared the benefits of very comfortable backgrounds. This could just be a coincidence, and I'm sure there are many, many rags to riches, phoenix from the ashes stories. It does throw up a broader issue though. We need to be creating a culture of entrepreneurialism which isn't separatist, and doesn't rely on a five figure family investment to start us on our way. This is where the App Economy comes in - the result of a perfect merger of technology and entrepreneurialism, without the need for thousands of pounds of investment. 60% of the roles created by the App Economy across Europe are taken by developers, arguably the entrepreneurs of the app world.
In theory, a successful apptrepreneur just needs a connected device and good idea. A broad digital network helps too. In practice, he or she needs to be ensconced within an environment which praises, nurtures and encourages innovation, creative thinking and leadership, whether - ideally - a structured enterprise curriculum at school or through an open, communicative dialogue at home.
To make the most of the tremendous opportunities the App Economy is delivering to us and our future generations, we need to take responsibility and create an entrepreneurial culture across our homes, schools and offices. And we can start now.