KARACHI: Amid social distancing and lockdowns, more Pakistanis are looking to connect on social media, becoming increasingly reliant on video outlets for work as well as entertainment, and seeking government apps to address Covid-19 concerns, data analysed by Dawn indicates.

While the overall internet traffic in the country has increased by 15 per cent according to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), most of the bandwidth is being consumed to use social media platforms.

Dawn analysed internet use in Pakistan based on data shared by SimilarWeb and Apptopia — web analytics services that provide traffic data for websites and apps, respectively.

The traffic percentage for top websites and apps was calculated from February 26 (when the first Covid-19 case was reported in Pakistan) to April 9. The app data applies to Android users in Pakistan only.

Spending more time on social media

With a ban on social gatherings, Pakistani users are looking to connect on Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter as the platforms have all seen active user numbers grow towards an upward trend during the period.

Interestingly, the data from SimilarWeb and Apptopia indicates that more people are using their desktops (computers/laptops) to access social media platforms as compared to apps on their smartphones.

During the Covid-19 outbreak in Pakistan, Facebook’s website usage saw an increase of 6.94pc as compared to a 2.8pc increase in its app users. With a growing need to connect through messaging as offices and schools have gone remote, WhatsApp’s desktop usage has also gone up by 23.5pc.

Similarly, desktop users for Twitter saw a 22.84pc surge as more people are seeking updates related to Covid-19 — that are now often released on Twitter.

Reliance on video outlets

From politics to schooling, to fitness training to telemedicine, to business and social gatherings (even funerals) all have shifted online. In a first for the country’s political history, even cabinet meetings and government engagements are being conducted online via video links.

The new trend has given a tremendous boost to video conferencing apps such as Zoom. Besides facilitating remote work, the platform’s main selling point is that it offers free 45-minute video calls with up to 100 people at the same time.

According to the PTA, traffic of video conferencing outlets has increased five times. Data shows that from only 4,149 users on Feb 26, Zoom’s desktop usage surged to 84,469 users on April 8. Similarly, its app users have gone up from 5,404 to over 23,000 in 44 days.

Some patterns, however, remain the same. In terms of overall ranking, YouTube is the most popular website in Pakistan with 4.30pc growth in terms of surge in traffic.

People have also grown much more reliant on entertainment services such as Netflix. From around 36,000 desktop users on Feb 26, the platform now has over 87,000 people using the media streaming service in Pakistan. In order to match the increasing demand, media streaming platform Netflix has removed the highest bandwidth streams in Pakistan. The decision has been taken to reduce traffic so that more users can avail the service.

More people turning to citizen portal

Amid lockdowns and with the total tally of Covid-19 cases going up in Pakistan, citizens are turning to

government portals to address their concerns. As of April 9, the government’s citizen portal app was ranked the most popular in the country. The app’s daily active users have gone up by 73.71pc since the first coronavirus case was reported in the country.

Another digital initiative on an upward trend is Insaf Imdad App. The app is an outlier as it was only launched on March 31 but has quickly shot up among the local downloads, according to data. The app has been developed by the Punjab government for registration of the needy for getting aid during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is showing a trend of 14k downloads per day, which is on the higher side.

Ludo is national pastime

From the period analysed, game apps Ludo Star and Ludo King have emerged as the nation’s favourite pastime in lockdown. Ludo Star is a Ludo game which is free to play and can be played between friends and family.

Ludo Star’s usage has gone up by 82.93pc, whereas daily usage of Ludo King has also increased by over 40pc.

Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2020

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