The coronavirus has not only changed how we conduct our daily routines, but it also promises to alter our online behaviour. Being confined at home with no access to our favourite restaurants and theatres during stringent lockdown regulations, the world has gone online. As the Covid-19 emergency continues, the Internet allows friends and family to keep in touch and stay informed, it lets students attend classes, and it helps people everywhere accomplish essential tasks like ordering grocery deliveries or refilling prescriptions.
In the new normal, reliable Internet access is also critical for business continuity and survival as video conferences have replaced daily meetings and some of those who were previously office bound are likely to continue working remotely for the long term, even when the pandemic ends.
We connect for entertainment
People are using streaming services like Netflix and YouTube for entertainment and connecting with others on social media platforms like Facebook. However, where Facebook, Netflix and YouTube were increasingly accessed on smartphones in the past, creating an industry wide focus on mobile devices, computers and smart TVs are now the preferred devices.
Wanting human contact, apps that were previously not receiving much traffic like Google’s video chatting application, Duo, and Houseparty, which allows groups of friends to video chat and play games together, saw a pike in usage. Houseparty has consistently been in the top ten downloaded apps on Google’s app stores in the last month.
More reliance on services that allow us to work and learn from home
Lockdown restrictions have forced people to work and learn from the safety of their homes. School assignments are being handed out on Google Classroom and WhatsApp. Video conferencing and meetings on Zoom, Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams have risen steeply. Specifically, Facebook and WhatsApp have been used by South African schools and learners as platforms of remote learning.
People are also increasingly searching for more information on the current state of the pandemic. For example, a WhatsApp platform developed by the South African company, Praekelt.org to provide information on the coronavirus outbreak has been adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO) to reach at least 50 million people around the globe.
WhatsApp, owned by Silicon Valley-based Facebook with more than 2 billion users globally, is very popular in Africa, where it is the continent’s most popular messaging app. Locally, more than 3 million users have engaged on WhatsApp since the National Department of Health first launched the Covid-19 Connect WhatsApp Helpline in English and additional languages were added.
WhatApp’s general manager, Milton Madanda, said: “The scale of WhatsApp usage in South Africa is 70% of our population, therefore it is an effective way to provide vital, accurate information that people need directly from the National Department of Health”. The desire for the latest facts on the virus relates to hygiene, the importance of self-isolation and physical distancing, and symptoms and myths about the virus.
Video games gain against sports
Games traffic have surged by more than 100% and sports-related content is down 50%. With little sports to watch, several video games sites have had surges in traffic, as have sites that allow users to observe other people play. Twitch, the leading site for streaming game play, has had a 20% traffic increase and TikTok, the mobile app filled with short clips of pranks and lip-syncing, has continued its steady climb ever since before the pandemic. In addition, people are expanding their hobbies, resulting in a 120% increase in arts and crafts-related Internet traffic.
The Internet is undoubtedly playing a vital role
Internet usage has surged in cities in lockdown. Cloudflare’s global edge network shows that Internet traffic is shifting from urban business districts to more residential areas and suburbs. Mobile traffic moved from a high concentration of businesses and offices to the areas where employees shelter and work remotely.
An investigation into typical searches indicates that with children at home, parents are searching for activities and classes, resulting in a 200% increase in website traffic dedicated to kids and students.
An overall global increase in Internet traffic begs the question of how these immense shifting trends have affected Internet usage patterns worldwide. The Internet’s ability to sustain these peak usage levels have been questioned by many. However, big fluctuations in web traffic are common and the response is: The Internet was built to cope with major fluctuations in traffic and its resilience is astonishing.
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