The National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NTRA) has reported a 68 per cent increase in mobile Internet usage, a 76 per cent rise in viewing of entertainment content, and a 47 per cent increase in online shopping in Egypt during Ramadan.
Movies and TV series via video on demand platforms (SVOD) such as Netflix, Shahid, and Watch It, attracted 33 million viewers, with viewing hours peaking at 12.9 a day, said the NTRA report, an increase of 76 per cent compared to Ramadan 2021.
The usage rate of shopping apps and websites recorded was up by 47 per cent over Ramadan 2021, recording 181 million visits daily.
The number of users sending or receiving online mails reached 15 million. Meanwhile, 11.6 million e-mails were sent daily, an increase of about 132 per cent in comparison to last year.
Short entertainment videos for applications like TikTok and Likee were posted by 17 million subscribers, with recorded hours reaching 3.5 million/day, an increase of 158 per cent over Ramadan 2021.
Social media users in Egypt made 1.8 billion visits a day to sites, a 20 per cent increase on last year.
Social media consultant Fadi Ramzi says the growth in Internet usage is attributable to a number of factors, including changes in viewing habits brought about by the pandemic, a growing population with a young people, and the boom in online services and content.
Egypt had 76.9 million Internet users in January 2022, up from 50.4 million in January 2021, of which 63.9 million were via mobiles, 10.8 million ADSL users, and 2.2 million USM modem users according to a report issued in March 2022 by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. The number of internet users in Egypt through mobile phones – which stood at 50.4 million in January 2021 – alone has increased by 13.5 million users in one year, with 26.6 per cent annual change rate, according to the report.
Increased viewing of entertainment content, says Ramzi, has been led by SVODs producing their own serial or movie content, shown exclusively on each platform, which has increased people’s awareness of the platforms.
The hike in online shopping Ramzi attributes to the increased competitiveness of online retail, the availability of multiple payment options, including no interest installment plans, and the fact that online shopping is easy.
As Ramadan, a month that typically sees an increase in the rate of food consumption, is an occasion for family and friends to meet for breaking their fast together, Fadi also tackled the impact of the recent launch of food and grocery applications. “There has been a boom this year in the number of food and grocery ordering application, whether local ones like Breadfast, or international ones like Talabat,” the social media consultant said.
Samia Khedr, a professor of sociology at Ain Shams University, also sees Covid-19 as a determinant of behavioural change.
“The pandemic has meant that for two years now people have been using the Internet for everything from e-learning, ordering food and clothes, to holding online meetings and watching drama serials… Life shifted online in an unprecedented way,” Khedr told Al-Ahram Weekly.
“As people use the Internet and rely on it to accomplish their tasks, by time they become increasingly dependent on it. The Internet has become a very familiar thing.”
Internet usage, however, remains age sensitive: the older generation took longest to adapt to the new reality, middle generations grasped it more easily, but young people were quickest off the mark, she says.
The Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS) reported in January 10-49 year olds comprised 60.4 per cent of Egypt’s 101 million plus population at the time of drafting the report.
Khedr highlighted that the increased pace of relying on the Internet is due to the fact that youth are the majority of Egypt’s population who are up to date with new technological solutions.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 28 April, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.