Smartphones become a lifeline for poor Brazilians

Financially vulnerable individuals work and study remotely exclusively via mobile devices, according to new research.

The majority of financially vulnerable Brazilians performs key daily tasks including study and work exclusively via their smartphones, according to a study from the Center of Studies on Information and Communication Technologies (Cetic.br), the research arm of the Brazilian Network Information Center (NIC.br)

This is the latest study of a research series into technology habits of users after the emergence of the pandemic, which utilizes indicators from the center's pre-Covid studies on tech adoption.

The sample size of the research is 101 million Internet users, which corresponds to 83% of Brazilian users aged 16 or over. The latest survey was carried out between September 10 and October 1. It considers 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).

According to the survey results, 74% of Internet users in Brazil from the bottom of the socioeconomic pyramid, the classes D and E access the web exclusively via smartphones. By comparison 11% of rich Brazilians, from classes A and B, use phones exclusively to access the Internet.

Exclusive of smartphones to study is also more frequent among the poorest Brazilians: 54% stated they only use their phones to carry out educational activities remotely. This compared with 43% of the users from the class C, and 22% among wealthier Brazilians.

READ MORE: Pandemic puts spotlight on digital inequality in Brazil

Conversely, the use of notebooks, desktops and tablets as the main type of equipment for remote education is greater among the classes A and B (66%). Use of such types of equipment is less likely among class C students (30%) and the most financially vulnerable (11%).

"The lack of digital resources to access classes and remote activities is one of the main aspects that can affect the continuity of educational routines during the pandemic", said Alexandre Barbosa, manager at Cetic.br.

"The disparities in access to ICT among students of different socioeconomic profiles also create unequal opportunities for learning", he added. Barriers cited by participants around remote education included the difficulty to address questions with teachers (38%) and the lack of, or low quality of the Internet connection (36%).

Reasons most cited by wealthier respondents for not following up on remote educational activities among wealthier Brazilians, the main reasons cited for lack of interest to study remotely were lack of enjoyment to study remotely or not managing to do so from a distance (43%); household duties (38%) and lack of motivation (35%).

Among users on lower incomes, often cited reasons for not having the encouragement to study online included the need to look for work (63%), household chores (58%) and the lack of equipment to access classes (48%).

When it comes to work, the Cetic.br research found that approximately 23 million people were working remotely. Over half of Brazilian remote workers (52%) belong to classes A and B and most used a notebook to work. Conversely, 84% of Internet users who worked remotely used their smartphones to do so.

Separate research from Cetic.br released in August found that there has been an increase in Internet access among Brazil's classes D and E. This was mostly driven by e-commerce, entertainment, education and digital access to government services.