When global populations went into lockdown in a bid to control the Covid-19 pandemic, internet and social media traffic rose to an all time high, moving millions of users online every day, a combination of research reports indicate.
A survey by global cloud service firm Akamai shows that global internet traffic has grown by 30 percent this year, taking 346 million people online for the first time over the past year.
“More than 4.57 billion people around the world now use the internet, and that accounts for close to 60 per cent of the world’s total population,” the study reveals.
To it into perspective, that means at least 11 new users started to use the internet for the first time every second since July 2019.
The latest data from GSMA Intelligence shows that unique mobile users continue to grow, although the pace of growth slowed in the first three months of 2020 to quarter-on-quarter growth of 0.5 percent.
The organisation reports that mobile users have grown by 2.4 percent over the past year, and this slowdown was likely triggered by coronavirus lockdowns, especially in China, which contributes a sizeable share of overall global growth.
A separate research by British social insight company We Are Social indicates that social media users in the world have grown by more than 10 percent over the past year, taking the global total to 3.96 billion by the start of July 2020.
“This means that – for the first time – more than half of the world’s population now uses social media. The pace of growth appears to have accelerated in recent months, despite the global total having already passed the halfway mark,” Digital 2020 Global Statshot Report by the firm says.
Growth trends, it explains, indicate that an average of more than 1 million people started using social media for the first time every single day over the past 12 months, equating to almost 12 new users every second.
There is an increased use of connected devices, despite many countries starting to lift lockdown restrictions that triggered that initial surge in use last April.
The latest statistics of GlobalWebIndex’s Coronavirus Multi Market Study finds that 7 in 10 internet users are still spending more time using mobile phones compared to pre-pandemic levels, while nearly half of internet lovers are still spending more time using laptops.
People’s affection for streaming continues to soar, with more than half of GlobalWebIndex’s respondents saying that they’re still streaming more films and TV shows over the internet today than they did at the start of 2020.
“One in 7 respondents say that they’re continuing to create and upload more video content.”
Connected tech, according to a survey by Ericsson, has been keeping billions of users entertained during lockdowns.
“More than 8 in 10 mobile phone users say that internet-connected technologies have helped them cope during the pandemic, enabling them to support their children’s education (76 percent), stay in touch with friends and family (74 percent), and even improve their mental health and wellbeing (43 percent),” the study states.
Numerous have emerged over recent weeks highlighting the big role that connected tech and the Internet of Things can play in combatting loneliness and depression caused by the global economic recession.
“So, while there’s plenty of evidence that excessive use of connected tech can be harmful, it’s worth remembering that the same technologies can also improve people’s quality of life.”
There is a growing shift towards voice search, with more people falling out of love with keyed-in search, and looking to explore the new service powered by Artificial Intelligence. In the world’s fastest growing internet markets, a rise of voice search and voice command has been witnessed.
“Over half of the internet users in India, China, and Indonesia now use voice tech each month, with 6 in 10 users in India saying that they used voice interfaces in the past 30 days,” data from GlobalWebIndex indicates. However, voice isn’t the only technology that’s reshaping search.
GlobalWebIndex’s research also reveals that image recognition services such as Pinterest Lens and Google Lens have become increasingly important tools for internet users, especially amongst younger audiences.
“More than one-third of internet users aged 16 to 64 report using image recognition tools in the past month, but that figure rises to almost 40 percent for women aged 16 to 34.”
These tools have become critically crucial for e-commerce, and have particular value for brands in aesthetically oriented categories such as fashion, home decor, and even consumer technology.
The overall gap between search engines and social networks has been steadily closing over recent months, pointing to an ongoing seismic drift in how people look for information about the things they want to buy.
Social networks are now the top choice amongst internet users aged 16 to 24 when it comes to brand research – even ahead of search engines – with younger women particularly likely to turn to social media for their research needs.
“With roughly 98 percent of internet users across all age groups using a search engine every month, there’s no doubt that these tools continue to play an essential role in people’s online activities.”