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Coronavirus, schools re-opening top SA’s online searches

By , Sub Saharan Africa Business, Tech, News and Development Journalist
Africa , 24 Jun 2020

Searches about COVID-19 make up 15% of all online queries in South Africa, with citizens also keen to know more about the re-opening of schools using internet search engines.

This is according to research by UK-based mobile tech firm Upstream, which provides support services for telecommunication service providers in Africa.

The company says mobile operators in South Africa “are experiencing increased traffic as the coronavirus pandemic drives users online.”

Online search data for March and May 2020 shows that searches about coronavirus “accounted for 15% of all online searches” nationwide.

Upstream adds: “Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the top trending search query in South Africa was ‘how to get free data’”

The report affirms: “Since the outbreak, this has been joined in the rankings, alongside ‘What is coronavirus?’ and ‘When are schools opening?’ These online queries now make the two most searched online searches for South Africa.

“Interest in general health news also saw a dramatic increase, jumping from just 5.2 percent between December 2019 and February 2020, to 28.6 percent by May 2020, accounting for more than a quarter of all news content.”

This comes as the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdown measures across Africa are impacting people’s income and their ability to physically top-up mobile data credit amid calls for a reduction in data tariffs in several countries, including Malawi and Zimbabwe.

According to Google, the two most searched topics for South Africa in 2019 was load shedding and election results.

Kostas Kastanis, deputy CEO at Upstream said “the internet (was) becoming an essential vehicle for accessing critical information on public health”.

Some telecom support service companies are partnering telcos in Africa to provide advertising supported mobile internet at discounted and subsidized rates.

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