Weekly economic signals: Internet speeds hit highs, grocery visits rebound

The median mobile download speed from global internet tracker Ookla shows a higher median download speed on mobile and fixed internet than before the lockdown.
The average reader may find it easier to read this story and also access other online content, as numbers seem to suggest that internet speeds are now at levels last seen before the lockdown. Other indicators like power generation and visits to grocery and pharmacy stores also point to increased activity, though the overall picture suggests that a return normalcy is still in process.

India had a national lockdown from March end to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. A similar lockdown in China affected that country's economic activity. Many indicators to gauge the impact such as gross domestic product (GDP) numbers or trade data often appeared only quarterly or monthly. Analysts began to track proxies to economic activity such as pollution levels, traffic congestion and internet speeds to get a better sense of the fast-changing situation on the ground.

Business Standard has been tracking similar indicators in India. They include internet speeds, Google data on population movement, electricity generation, goods carried by the railways, traffic congestion and pollution in key cities. All the data is tracked weekly, though Google and internet speed numbers come with a lag. Many of the indicators saw a sharp decline towards the end of March but have since been creeping back.

The median mobile download speed from global internet tracker Ookla shows a higher median download speed on mobile and fixed internet than before the lockdown. The data is for the week ending June 14 (see chart 1). People use the internet more when they are at home, for work and for entertainment. This causes a decline in download speeds because of increased load. More people are heading back to work now.


Google’s mobility report shows that the average workplace visits have improved. The difference over pre-lockdown levels is now under 30 per cent as of June 14, based on a seven-day rolling average. Location data that the search engine tracks also shows that the category of places which have seen the sharpest recovery are those for essential shopping like groceries and pharmacies (see chart 2).


All other data below is more recent, for the week ending June 20.

The railways showed around a five per cent decline in the quantity of goods it carried for the week ending Saturday. This is better than last week when the quantity was down by a tenth. Earnings are still down 15 per cent (see chart 3).


Power generation numbers also show an improvement. The latest weekly figures show generation is close to 2019 levels (see chart 4). Industries have been gradually opening up again.


Two indicators which haven’t seen as much of a recovery is traffic congestion and pollution levels. Mumbai and New Delhi both saw their traffic congestion levels begin to taper off after rising in recent times. The numbers are based on location tracker TomTom International (see chart 5).


Business Standard also looks at nitrogen dioxide levels which are emitted because of industrial activity and from vehicles. The levels for both remain muted in Delhi and Mumbai (See chart 6,7). Delhi had shown some recovery but the gap over 2019 appears to have widened again. 

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