COVID-19 and the economy: Researchers respond

Pandemic stress on the internet

As entire societies were forced into lockdown, many aspects of daily life – from working and communicating to shopping and entertainment – moved abruptly online. How did the internet cope?

L-R: Dr Klaus Ackermann, Associate Professor Paul Raschky and Associate Professor Simon Angus

Dr Klaus Ackermann, Associate Professor Simon Angus and Associate Professor Paul Raschky are economists with Monash Business School’s SoDa Labs and cofounders of the alternative data spin-off, KASPR DataHaus.

They conduct research on how enormous volumes of global internet activity data can be used to infer human, social and economic behaviour.

The team has produced a publicly available Global Internet Pressure map that is updated regularly via the KASPR Datahaus website. Users can explore the global observations in a dashboard and download the data for specific countries.

During the early stages of COVID-19, their research revealed that as lockdowns took hold under heavy caseloads, the internet showed signs of significant pressure, and in some regions resulted in crippling online experiences.

The pattern for Japan, Spain, South Korea, Italy, and China showed a strong correlation with COVID-19 cases, lockdowns, and internet pressure.

"In most OECD countries affected by COVID-19, the internet quality was still relatively stable. Although regions throughout Italy, Spain and somewhat surprisingly, Sweden, were showing signs of strain," Associate Professor Raschky says.

"It was also clear that there were some huge issues with the internet in Iran."

These findings on the early impact of coronavirus in terms of internet latency generated wide interest from the media across the world and continue to inform research and industry policy.