Millions of UK households are trying online services like streaming and video calling for the first time due to coronavirus social distancing measures, a study estimates.
The government-imposed lockdown introduced last month means more Britons are going online for entertainment, shopping and keeping in touch with friends and family.
Video calling has seen the largest rise in new users, according to a survey conducted by EY in March, with 18 per cent of consumers trying it for the first time.
Online shopping and watching catch-up TV are each being tried by 9 per cent of the UK, the study estimates based on an online survey of 2,000 people.
Due to the outbreak of coronavirus, millions of people are trying online service for the first time, the study suggests, including video streaming and catch-up TV
And even those who are already used to streaming, video calls and work-related apps are now reporting an increased use.
The survey said 29 per cent of respondents have used streaming services more often, while 30 per cent report an increase in home working via collaboration apps and 35 per cent are making more mobile phone calls.
EY says the survey reveals the extent to which internet network providers are having to keep up with customer demands.
‘We are seeing a step-change in demand for digital connectivity and content in the wake of coronavirus, as household behaviours adapt to these challenging times,’ said Adrian Baschnonga, analyst at EY.
Work-based connectivity apps have also seen a rise due to coronavirus – EY reports a 30 per cent increase in home working via collaboration applications
‘Elevated levels of home working alongside a broadening range of online behaviours underline the importance of robust networks now and in the days, weeks and months to come.’
Just over half of respondents – 54 per cent – said they think social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are coping well during the crisis.
However, 67 of respondents said social media platforms are not doing enough to limit the spread of fake news.
Access to news updates during the pandemic is also a priority – half of consumers have looked at news content more often since the crisis started.
Broadband and mobile network providers are thought to be coping well to the huge demand in internet by 75 per cent and 73 per cent of consumers, respectively.
89 per cent of households said they’re unlikely to switch broadband provider and 93 per cent are unlikely to switch mobile and pay TV provider.
More than three in four households think their current packages are enough to meet their needs during the crisis.
9 per cent of Britons are trying online shopping for the first time because of the lockdown, EY says, due to restrictions on the amount of time they’re allowed outside as well as the closure of non-essential stores
The most-often cited concern for both broadband and mobile providers was ‘a reliable and resilient performance’.
But around one quarter are still concerned about a reduction in the quality of their service since the lockdown began.
‘We have not yet acknowledged enough the vital role telcos have been playing since the start of the COVID-19 situation,’ said Praveen Shankar, head of technology, media and communications for EY UK.
‘From ensuring that the digital infrastructure can keep the UK connected, to ensuring customers can access critical online services by lifting data caps or adjusting their packaging and pricing, operators are indispensable.
‘Customer sentiments towards technology, media and telecoms providers during the crisis are positive at this stage.
‘But with rapidly changing demands in an increasingly volatile landscape, they need to continuously engage with their customers and respond with both agility and focus.’
11 per cent of households recognise the need to upgrade to full fibre broadband, while only 8 per cent has said the crisis has made the thought of buying a 5G-ready phone more appealing.
Elsewhere in the findings, 23 per cent doubt the ability of businesses to keep their personal data safe during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, nearly half – 46 per cent – would be happy to use automated customer service and virtual assistants to ensure quick access to customer supports services.
However, at a time when customer support services are under strain, 24 per cent have said they have had a bad experience with a customer service centre.
WHAT ARE TECH COMPANIES DOING ABOUT COVID-19?
The social network is giving the World Health Organisation as many free ads as it needs in a bid to get accurate health information to users of the platform as clearly as possible.
It also launched the ‘Coronavirus Information Centre’ – a dedicated webpage with COVID-19 resources and advice.
This is being promoted at the top of users’ News Feeds, directing them to the latest updates and guidance from the NHS and WHO.
Facebook is also making its Workplace platform available to governments and emergency services for free in a bid to help those dealing with the coronavirus.
All government organisations globally, at a national or local level, are eligible to claim 12 months of free access to the premium tier of Workplace.
Twitter also recently resolved to delete tweets from its site that promote conspiracy theories, misleading or dangerous advice and other harmful ideas relating to coronavirus.
Tweets that deny ‘established scientific facts’ and expert guidance regarding the virus will be marked as harmful and removed, the site said in a blog post.
It gave examples of inaccurate tweets that would be deleted swiftly, including ‘people with dark skin are immune to COVID-19 due to melanin production’, ‘use aromatherapy and essential oils to prevent COVID-19’ and ‘the news about washing your hands is propaganda for soap companies, stop washing your hands!’.
Google also teamed up with WHO to launch an SOS Alert dedicated to the coronavirus, which appears at the top of search results when users type ‘coronavirus’.
The search engine is prioritising information on the virus from the WHO, including official WHO updates on the spread of the virus and how to stay safe.