New Report Explores COVID-19’s Impact on the Internet in Afghanistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka Thumbnail
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Infrastructure and Community Development 9 December 2020

New Report Explores COVID-19’s Impact on the Internet in Afghanistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka

Naveed Haq
By Naveed HaqRegional Infrastructure and Connectivity Director

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many have shifted their day-to-day activities to online. To sustain the spike in Internet traffic, fast and affordable Internet service are now more critical than ever.

Yet, Ookla Insights shows that Internet speed in Afghanistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka has declined since the pandemic. A new Internet Society report, The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Internet Performance in Afghanistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka, examines the impact of this fall in the performance and quality of Internet services in these countries on online users.

Informed by an online survey, taken by two hundred Internet users – predominantly tech-savvy city dwellers with access to the Internet – the report reveals there is a decline in Internet performance in the three countries. It shows that though the performance decline frustrated online users, more are increasingly spending on high-speed Internet.

The research advocates for governments and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to take advantage of the situation and accelerate efforts to increase network capacity and reliability to address the performance gaps.

Here are some highlights from The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Internet Performance in Afghanistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Fall in Internet Performance

Around 50-80% of users reported facing a regular Internet performance dip, despite switching between connection types and subscription plans and/or increasing spending on their Internet connection. According to half of the respondents, this decline in Internet performance has made it difficult to study online and communicate with family and friends.

Dissatisfied Internet Users

Users have become more dissatisfied with the speed, reliability, and steadiness of their Internet connection. The high-speed Internet service promised by Internet Service providers is not always available, even when users pay more. The speed, reliability, and steadiness of Internet connection satisfaction ratings have dropped by 15-30 percentage points.

More Spending on Internet Connections

Users increased spending on Internet connections during the pandemic. This is more prominent in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka than in Nepal.

  • Users from Afghanistan are spending the most on Internet connections. Over 40% of the respondents spend over USD20 per month for their Internet connection (compared to 25% before to the pandemic).
  • In Sri Lanka, the number of respondents spending less than USD5 per month on Internet connections has reduced by half during the pandemic (from 24% to 11%), while the number of respondents spending over USD15 per month have more than doubled (from 16% to 37%).
  • In Nepal, less than 10% of the respondents have increased their spending on Internet connections during the pandemic. About two-third of the respondents spend between USD10 and USD20 per month on Internet connections during the pandemic; they spent the same amount before.

Devices Used to Access the Internet

Most users (90%) access the Internet with their mobile phones and/or laptops, while Internet access via desktops, tablets, and smart TVs is significantly lower. This number was the same before the pandemic.

Home Connection

The primary type of home connection varies between countries. Most respondents use mobile Internet in Afghanistan, fixed-line connections in Nepal, and fixed-line or wireless connections in Sri Lanka. Less than a quarter of the respondents have switched their type of home connection during the pandemic.

Use of Social Media

Social networking is the topmost activity in all three countries, both before and during the pandemic. Other important activities include using the Internet for work, study, information search, streaming, and entertainment.

As we learn to live with the pandemic, high-speed Internet service will remain a vital tool for work, study, and business. Governments and Internet service providers must accelerate efforts to increase network capacity and reliability and address urgent access gaps.

At the same time, short-term actions such as subsiding Internet charges, waiving late fees, maintaining services for those behind on bills, and increasing data allowances can help improve user experience.

Read The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Internet Performance in Afghanistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka to get a detailed country-by-country analysis of the survey results.


Image of Kathmandu, Nepal by Pritush Munankarmi via Unsplash

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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