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ACMA survey highlights how COVID-19 changed Australia's online behaviour

We grew more reliant on the internet and communication services.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Australia's reliance on the internet and communication services grew significantly for the six months to June 2020, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) 2020 annual consumer survey has revealed.

It showed that 99% of Australians accessed the internet, an increase from 90% of Australians who accessed the internet during the same period last year.

The survey suggested the increase in online activities was likely driven by the COVID-19 restrictions that were introduced in March 2020, given that there were no significant changes from 2018 to 2019.

Emailing, web browsing, banking, and watching videos remained the most popular online activities during the six months.

Read: Long-term remote work is leading to a global drop in productivity (TechRepublic)

Also, for the first time, the ACMA survey showed the participation rates of users going online for accessing news, posting and engaging with content, video conferencing and calling, working from home, telehealth consultations, and studying from home.

When the survey examined how COVID-19 restrictions changed online activity participation, it showed four out of five Australian adults started or increased their participation for both telehealth consultations, and video conferencing and calling.

Specifically, 45% started telehealth consultation, while another 38% increased their telehealth activities. Meanwhile, video conferencing increased by 59%, followed by work from home at 50%, and study from home at 10%.

Gambling and the purchase of lottery tickets online saw the biggest decline at 34% and 22%, respectively, since COVID-19.

The ACMA added that Australians who started or increased their online activities due to the COVID-19 restrictions were more likely to be aged 18-54 than 55-plus.


Change in internet activities since COVID-19.

Image: ACMA

ACMA's survey also highlighted how the number of devices that Australian internet users used increased, with the average Australian user accessing 4.4 types of devices, versus just four last year. Excluding computers, tablets, and mobile phones, the most popular smart devices used were smart TVs, wearable devices, and voice-controlled smart speakers. The usage of smart fridges remained at a steady 1%.

Unsurprisingly, fixed-line home phone usage continued to decline, from 44% in 2019 to 40% in 2020, while all other services -- mobile phone calls, mobile texting, emailing, messaging and calling apps, social networking apps -- increased during the six months to June 2020. The use of messaging and call apps saw the biggest spike from 60% in 2019 to 77% in 2020, followed by emails, jumping 10% to 90% in 2020.

The use of apps for communication and social networking has also grown since COVID-19, the ACMA said. Its survey showed that 77% of Australians used an app to communicate via message, a 10% bump from last year. Of those, 55% used one to three different apps and another 35% used more than four.

For the six months, Facebook Messenger remained at the number one position as the top communication app. This was followed by Zoom, which was included in the survey for the first time, and was used by 43% of those surveyed.

The usage of Instagram, Skype, and Apple iMessage as communication apps, on the other hand, declined year on year.

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