Who’s watching the Un-Connected?

I’ve been spending the past ten years of my career helping banks, retailers, and payments companies in the United States develop alternative financial services for consumers who are un-banked and under-banked. Those folks who either voluntarily or otherwise shun banks and credit card companies for help managing their money.

FamilyWe’ve come a long way from those early years with innovations for the financial outliers, including offerings like prepaid debit cards and no-contract cell phones.

I’ve got my eyes on a new group of under-served consumers I’m calling the “Un-Connected” and “Under-Connected” – people who have no or limited access to the web, either though a smart phone, laptop, tablet, or (heaven-forbid) a desktop at the public library.

Today, about fifty-eight percent of mobile users have a smart phone, leaving forty-two percent on the sidelines with a feature phone that may (or not) enable texting. (comScore, 3/2013).

According to Pew research, twenty-percent of American adults does not use the internet. That includes more than half (54%) of the 27% of adults in the U.S. living with a disability.

In fact, two percent (2%) of American adults live with disabilities that make it difficult or impossible to use the internet.

Another important component to serving the Un-Connected and Under-Connected are caregivers. These are the 30% of adults who care for another adult. The typical caregiver is a 45-year old woman taking care of her mother, or a wife taking care of her spouse. She’s the primary access point for her loved one’s use of the internet.

My conclusion? There is a large swath of consumers sitting on the sidelines under-connected. Who’s watching them?