Google’s Mobility Report shows how South Africans are responding to COVID-19 lockdown

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Most countries across the globe impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic have instituted some sort of lockdown. South Africa for example is currently on day eight of its 21 day lockdown, but still some citizens are not adhering to the regulations that government has put in place.

To gain a better idea of which country is adhering to lockdown regulations, and which are not, Google recently revealed its new Mobility Report tool. It’s a platform that takes Google Maps aggregated and anonymised data to create graphs showing user movement in specific public areas compared to a median.

You can search for a Mobility Report on 131 countries currently, including South Africa, with the latest report (PDF) accurate as of 29th March.

For those concerned about how this data is being used, Google says no identifiable information is being shared.

“We calculate these insights based on data from users who have opted-in to Location History for their Google Account, so the data represents a sample of our users,” the firm notes.

“These reports were developed to be helpful while adhering to our stringent privacy protocols and protecting people’s privacy. No personally identifiable information, like an individual’s location, contacts or movement, is made available at any point,” it adds.

As for the aforementioned, this was taken from data over a five-week period. Specifically 3rd January to 6th February this year, with it taking two to three days to generate these reports.

Looking at the 29th March report, retail and transit stations have seen the largest decline, with 79 percent and 80 percent less user interaction respectively. Grocery and pharmacy has declined 60 percent, however, which makes sense given the fact that government has allowed travel for essential items like food and medication.

Interestingly, workplaces has only seen a 49 percent drop. Unfortunately we cannot drill deeper into these statistics, so it remains to be seen how large of a portion non-essential workers make of the other 51 percent.

Unsurprisingly, the household has seen a 24 percent increase, although given the national lockdown, we expected this number to be higher. As such it points to the fact that not as many people are staying within the confines of their homes as outlined by government’s regulations.

The Mobility Report makes for interesting reading, and we’re intrigued to see how the number have changed by next week.

You can check out South Africa’s Mobility Report, or those from 130 other countries, here.

[Image – Photo by Jacques Nel on Unsplash]

Robin-Leigh Chetty

Robin-Leigh Chetty

Editor of Hypertext. Covers smartphones, IoT, 5G, cloud computing and a few things in between. Also a keen photographer and dabbles in console games when not taking the hatchet to stories.