Internet speed to power generation: What weekly data says about economy

Internet download speeds hit a high as India eased a weeks-long lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The other weekly indicators that Business Standard tracks too show significantly higher economic activity than during the lockdown though the pace of recovery seems to have morderated.

Business Standard tracks half-a-dozen such indicators on a weekly basis. They provide a recent picture of economic activity ahead of official figures like gross domestic product (GDP), which are often released with a lag. Many of these indicators show data as of Saturday, July 11 or Sunday July 12. Data from Google mobility reports and internet speeds appear with a lag.

Internet speeds tend to slow down in a lockdown when more people work from home. There is greater demand for video entertainment. Internet speeds fell when the government locked down the country late March, shows data since the beginning of the year to the week ending July 5 from global internet tracker Ookla. Internet speeds have since picked up as more people reported to work and are now at their highest level for 2020 (see chart 1).

Power generation number as of July 11 shows a 96.3 per cent recovery compared to last year’s figures. This is calculated by comparing the difference in power generated over the same day last year. An average of the last seven days has been used. Even a look at daily figures shows that the gap has been closing (see chart 2).

Numbers from Indian Railways, the country’s main public transporter, provide a sense of how much change there has been in activity. The Indian Railways is carrying nearly as many goods as they did before. Numbers has been stable over recent weeks. The quantity was down only 8.8 per cent for last week. Its earnings from carrying goods are down 15.6 per cent (see chart 3).

Traffic data from international location technology firm TomTom International shows a difference in two key Indian cities. Financial capital Mumbai has fewer cars on the road than New Delhi show numbers for the week ending Sunday(see chart 4).

Business Standard also tracks nitrogen dioxide emissions from industrial activity and vehicles. Numbers in Delhi shows emissions are down only by around a third from normal levels as of Saturday. Mumbai numbers are down over 90 per cent (see chart 5,6). 

Google releases periodic reports on where people are going based on the location data it collects. It shows that activity has broadly moderated after a rise in people going to work after the lockdown was lifted. Transit stations seem to show a decline as fewer people seem to be travelling shows numbers as of July 7. There have been news reports earlier of workers going back to their villages. And then of them coming back in search of employment to urban areas. Such activity may be tapering off (see chart 7).


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