How do you reach the next generation? (Through their phones, of course)

How easy does your city make it for people to get information or conduct business digitally? If your answer is “not very,” you’re in danger.

Each year, CommScope, a Council Global Lead Partner, surveys young adults about their attitudes toward technology. And this year, it found generation Z — the generation after the millennials — is more attached to their phones than ever.

But there’s something more troubling for cities. Members of this generation decide where they will live and where they will travel based on where they can get online and what they can do once connected.

The oldest members of this generation are coming into the workforce today, and these tech-savvy workers are attractive to high-tech businesses that bring good jobs to communities. That’s why it’s important cities understand the generation Z mindset and consider what they can do to satisfy it. The Digital Services chapter of our Readiness Guide is a great place to start. — Kevin Ebi


Generation Z can’t be without their phones
How long can you go without checking your phone? A substantial number of those in generation Z can’t go more than two minutes. Of those who live in places like Tokyo, Seoul, New York and London, about one in five check their phones more than 30 times per hour. Nearly three-quarters of their time outside of school or work is spent on their smartphones.

And the number is increasing. About 80% are more attached to their smartphones than they were a year ago.

They make time for play time
They spend a lot of time — what many might call — goofing off.  YouTube is a favorite app. They want to be entertained. They want to share their experiences and thoughts on social media.

One of the reasons they have so much time to do that, however, is that they use their phones to run the rest of their lives so much more efficiently. A quarter or more use their smartphones in order to make travel plans, hail rides, research things to do, and so on.

That requires connectivity
It’s hard to find any consumer trend that’s unanimous, but for members of generation Z, smartphone ownership is as close as you can get: 96% of them own smartphones.

They’re generally happy with their connectivity at home, but become frustrated elsewhere. Speed is critical. They quickly give up on apps and websites that take too long to load. And half say online access is a critical factor in what businesses they patronize, where they go on vacation and where they choose to live.

Some cities are preparing now
To meet their high expectations, some cities are improving their networks now. Knowing this generation expects high-speed connectivity everywhere, Aberdeen, Scotland’s third-largest city, is investing in fibre and 5G wireless.

Working with CommScope, the city is using small cells that become wireless access points for the fibre network. By placing those cells on traffic signals and lighting columns, they can cover key areas of the city, including the university, train station, sports stadium and main commercial district.