Internet use increases among poor Brazilians

A greater percentage of individuals on lower incomes is shopping online and paying for streaming services during the Covid-19 outbreak, according to new research.

There has been a significant increase in online access to financial offerings and government services in Brazil among low-income citizens, according to a study on the role of the Internet during the Covid-19 outbreak.

The study carried out by Cetic.br, research arm of the Brazilian Network Information Center (NIC.br) suggests that Internet access through all devices has gone up significantly and online traffic in Brazil has reached record levels in the last five months, peaking at 13,5 Tbps.

Considering the Brazilian socioeconomic class system ranging from the elite (class A), the upper-middle class (class B), the lower middle class (class C), the working-class poor (class D) and the extremely poor and unemployed (class E), the study has found an increase in Internet access among the classes D and E. This was mostly driven by e-commerce, entertainment, education and digital access to government services.

According to the Cetic.br report on Internet access during the health emergency crisis in Brazil, the percentage of individuals shopping online has gone from 37% to 64% among the class C, while the percentage has gone from 18% to 44% among the classes D and E. Conversely, online shopping among wealthier Brazilians has gone from 63% to 83%.

There was also a threefold increase in the percentage of Brazilians that order food via delivery apps, according to the study, from 15% to 44% over the last five months.

When it comes to online entertainment, which was already pervasive among richer Brazilians, the percentage of individuals paying for streaming services such as Netflix has gone up from 29% to 41% among the class C and it has gone from 11% to 32% among the classes D and E. Consumption of movies and series online has gone from 50% to 53% among Brazilians on higher incomes.

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The percentage of Brazilians using music streaming services during the pandemic has gone from 8% to 14%. Among the classes D and E, it has gone from 4% to 8%. Music streaming has gone from 16% to 26% among the classes A and B.

Another important driver that has been boosting Internet access among the poor is access to services such as the government's relief scheme. The program is being delivered mostly through digital means, with mobile operators enabling access to the service for free. According to Cetic.br, data on that particular project will be provided in an upcoming study.

Brazil has been accelerating public service digitization during the pandemic. A recent United Nations report has positioned Brazil as one of the fast-movers in digital government globally.

In addition, the Cetic.br study noted that companies have ramped up the use of online communications to talk to their audiences, with instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp playing a key role to enable sales. According to the study, the percentage of businesses that use such tools has gone up from 26% to 46% during the pandemic.

Despite that apparent progress, digital exclusion is still a reality for many Brazilians. A recent study carried out by the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (CGI.br) has found that 71% of Brazilian households currently have access to the Internet. However, more than 20 million households are digitally excluded.

The issue of lack of connectivity is particularly noticeable in households in the poorest areas of the country: 35% of homes in the Northeast region of Brazil don't use the web, and this is also a reality for 45% of Brazilian families on minimum wage.