Physical distancing is not social distancing – Recent report on smartphone use during COVID-19 outbreak

Increase in smartphone use (duration,
pickups, answered notifications) 01 Feb – 24 March

Together with colleagues from Tilburg University and the Ghent University, DigiCom Lab researcher Jakob Ohme has published a report on citizens’ smartphone use around the Covid-19 outbreak in Belgium. Based on MobileDNA smartphone tracking data from 2778 Flemish adults, the researchers see how communication patterns change in time of crisis. After Belgian lock down measures were in place, the average user used their smartphone 213 minutes per day (an increase of about 45 minutes, or 28%). The number of smartphone pickups remains fairly stable over this period. This means that users constantly turn to their smartphones, but use it longer to access news (43% increase), social media (31 % increase) or calling people (62% increase).

The report shows that smartphones are indispensable means for people to stay informed and they help public authorities to reach out to people. Especially the high increase in mobile messaging shows that in times of crisis, the smartphone for many people prevents that physical distancing results in social distancing.

The full report and associated datasets can be found here.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.