Coronavirus has forced much societal change in China and that includes a surge in internet usage in lower tier cities, as previously tech-resistant consumers, especially older generations, embrace smartphones and other devices to keep in touch.

According to a new report from QuestMobile, a Chinese data analytics firm, lower tier cities registered 24 million new internet users in the first quarter of this year.

Owing to the vast migration during the Lunar New Year holiday in mid-February, it is estimated that first- and second-tier cities witnessed seven million fewer mobile internet users.

And with millions of these city workers forced to extend their stays in their hometowns and villages, it is believed they have been converting their extended families to the mobile internet.

Consequently, there is now a net balance of 17 million more people online in the space of just a couple of months – and more than half of them are aged 41 or above, while a third of new users are aged under 24.

As reported by Abacus News, a unit of the South China Morning Post which first translated the QuestMobile findings into English: “As the pandemic forced people to spend more of their lives online, the country saw a remarkable increase in its online population.”

And not only have the user numbers increased – the amount of time people spend online has jumped too because so many more people are having to work and play at home.

According to the findings, the average mobile internet user in China now spends more than seven hours a day online, or about 90 minutes more than a year ago.

This is partly because older users have been forced to embrace online payments as they increasingly shop online, but also because it appears people are using the extra time on their hands to try out new services.

For example, the report found that users have downloaded between one and two additional apps compared with last year.

These include work efficiency apps, such as Alibaba’s DingTalk or Tencent’s WeChat Work, which are proving to be popular alongside fun short video apps, such as Bytedance’s TikTok.

Sourced from Abacus News, QuestMobile; additional content by WARC staff