The app economy; can it provide a viable escape route from a future of unemployment ?

Can learning to code be a way to circumvent the prevailing dogma of todays society surrounding higher education. Higher education is now more than ever, more about revenue generation, covering costs and sustaining the educational establishment than it is about producing outstanding free thinking individuals.

Today, the cost of a university education in the West not only comes at a high monetary price, one which is built on economic insecurity, but as a result may also come at the expense of a lust for robust independent thinking.

Education has always had the potential to produce two kinds of people. Real individuals with values, opinions and expectations of a rewarding future, based on their knowledge, creativity and imagination or pre-conditioned individuals. The latter being designed to fit easily into societal slots without the knowledge or desire to understand the true workings of the wider world or see the bigger picture beyond what it is they are trained to do.

Sadly, more often than not, it is the latter that is more prevalent and whats more, it has been purposefully engineered to be that way.

The imaginations of the young, their energy and creativity are being dissipated into the already established layers of society to produce tailored, predictable results. Society is replicating itself by crafting individuals in its own image, to maintain the status quo by promoting conformity and discouraging dissent.

Digital technology can be different, why ?, because of its propensity to change and to change quickly.

As this famous video illustrates, going to University to study a particular discipline in the digital sector can be a pointless excercise in that the technology you embark on studying in the first year may well be obsolete in the third year. Something we must also be cognisant of, is the rise in prominance and effectiveness of online learning, which has the enormous potential to undermine the whole notion of a university degree being the default setting for further education. So the very necessity of a university based tertiary education is called into question.

How does the app economy feed into this?

It can allow you to create an alternative future, where you are in control of your own destiny. You can determine your own path rather than follow a prescribed path which has become the everyday norm. We are conditioned to feel that there is no alternative to the way our society works. Digital can provide an escape route from such traditionally, myopic thinking.

The app economy is booming, speaking purely from a European perspective, we are doing pretty well, especially when you consider that most of the app platforms are built, owned and run by companies from North America, namely, Apple, Google and Facebook.

From a recent report produced by Gigaom about European app economy, it seems clear that since its inception in 2008 with the introduction of Apples iTunes store, Europe has played a major part. The App economy is still in its early stages, which means that there will be huge opportunities to profit from it for a good few years to come into the future. The app economy generated $23 billion just in 2013 this is expected to grow to $85 billion by 2018.

The success stories we can point to illustrate the early success of the Nordic and Western European countries with companies like Rovio, Spotify and making the most noise in this sector. When you breakdown the skills required to successfully launch and market an app via a commercial app stores, it is soon becomes clear that you will need to possess a far greater skill base than just being a great coder. You will need a UI/UX person, a designer and a tester as well as someone who can navigate the minefield of marketing your app and the associated business contracts with the app stores, in app advertising and payment mechanisms. This all points to jobs, jobs that did even exist only a few years ago.

The App economy is very much driven by the consumer and the use of social media and the proliferation of smartphones. This is only set to grow as smartphones begin to fall in price and more of the developing world join the party.

I haven’t even mentioned the fact that many companies that create apps are not even intending their apps to sell or make any money in of themselves, but are intended instead to drive access to their core business service or product. This all equates to even more jobs as companies race to assemble in house development teams with the right skill set or look to outsource.

Although it is still a nascent market, a picture is already emerging of how this market is beginning to shape up. If we allow it to follow the traditional trajectory of most verticals, then we will inevitably end up with large companies dominating, leaving little opportunity for small independent developers. If that happens then we would all have lost.

The Internet was meant to be a democratising force, levelling the playing field so that the small guy can compete effectively with the big boys. This is barely still the case as we are seeing a rapid shift, with individual developers and small companies constantly being snapped up by the very few dominate players, conscious that they must protect their position in the market at all costs.They are even prepared to pay enormous sums money to do so, Whatsapp being the latest case in point.

I am not advocating that anybody should forego a university education on the strength of this new gold rush, but what I am suggesting is that the app economy may be a way to channel your passion for digital. If you do decide to embark on a digital related university course then at least make sure that it can compliment the way tech is headed i.e. mobile, social & local. But always remember that education, which ever course you choose, is a prize in itself which no one can take from you.

Choosing to follow a vocational course, can only restrict your thinking, if you allow it to. You don’t have to let yourself be put into a box with a label on the outside. Use your digital skills to try change the world for the better and never lose sight of the bigger picture, see the world as it really is and your potential place in it. Never let others decide which path is the right one for you.