In Egypt, life goes online

Bassem Aly , Thursday 30 Apr 2020

The curfew to prevent the spread of the coronavirus has led to an increase in the use of telecom services in Egypt

Life goes online
A student takes class online using a mobile app at home in Cairo (photo: Reuters)

Egypt saw an increase in the use of telecom services in March and April, the National Telecoms Regulatory Authority (NTRA) announced this week.

It said there had been a “significant increase in the use of the Internet and during the curfew period and high traffic on telecom networks and increased peak hours due to subscribers staying for longer periods in their homes during curfew hours.”

Voice calls had increased locally by three per cent and internationally by 15 per cent, it said. Home Internet use had risen by 87 per cent, while mobile Internet use had increased by 18 per cent.

The peak hours for using Internet services had doubled to 15 hours per day from 12pm to 3am during the second week of April as opposed to only seven hours during the second week of March, the NTRA said.

Social media and media services represent a key part of the increase. The use of TikTok, Games, Netflix, YouTube and Shahid have increased by 194 per cent, 96 per cent, 69 per cent, 41 per cent, and 40 per cent, respectively, it said.

Use of Facebook has increased by 151 per cent, Instagram by 59 per cent, and WhatsApp by 34 per cent.

Browsing of educational sites provided by the Ministry of Education and Technical Education and the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research increased by 376.4 per cent in the second week of April compared to the second week of March, the NTRA said.

Download capacities have increased by 20 per cent for home Internet subscriptions at a cost of LE200 million.

Manar, the mother of two children in Cairo, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the figures were not surprising. She said that each member of her family has a smartphone and a laptop. As they spend long hours at home because of the coronavirus-related curfew, they use these devices the whole day.

“My husband spends the whole day working from home, my two sons play online games, and I love to spend time on Facebook and Instagram. In fact, we have nothing to do but eat, sleep, and check the Internet to pass the time,” Manar said.

Wael, 34, shared a similar perspective. “The Internet can be compared to electricity and water services. It has become an irreplaceable necessity of life,” he said.

Wael lives alone, and he is among a large number of people who are now working from home. He wakes up early, works until the afternoon, and checks social media for the rest of the day.

He has now been doing so for almost two months and is expecting to maintain this routine for some time to come. “What else can I do during such difficult times,” he asked.

*A version of this article appears in print in the  30 April, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under headline: United we stand


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