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How to manage internet consumption amidst COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic has created a need for more data usage across all demographics

The coronavirus pandemic has created a need for more data usage across all demographics

This year we experienced the novel COVID-19 pandemic and with it came a lockdown period that disrupted traditional ways of operation, transitioning Ugandans into a new modus operandi - digitisation.

This drove an apparent demand for data to sustain the extraordinary lifestyle that dictates limited human interaction. Meetings, school, work, business, entertainment et al are all currently in virtual space.

This new lifestyle has fully been simulated in everyday life, obsoleting the standard way of life where data was a luxury especially for certain demographics like school-going children. This spreads the need for data across the entire family, increasing data budget per household.

The cost of data in Uganda remains low. A gigabyte (GB) of data in Uganda costs $0.89 cents ranking the country among the top 30 countries with the cheapest data in the world as documented in a recent research published by Visual Capitalist.

Managing your data under many circumstances is incumbent on the user. Our smartphones and devices have become so sophisticated and heavily reliant on applications. For enhanced user experience, the Apps require continuous updates from the internet whilst consuming and depleting data even when in passive mode.

Such Apps include; location updates, map info, Facebook, Snapchat, Skype, Instagram and WhatsApp. It is advisable to disable some of these apps when not in use to limit access to the internet. I strongly recommend you manage your Apps to avoid background updates and it is advisable to disable some of these apps so they do not continue accessing the internet when you are not using your device.

Additionally, your smartphone has a provision to support data usage control. In the settings of your device, you can activate data controls, limits and thresholds which when reached, you receive alerts letting you know about your consumption so that you can manage and budge your usage accordingly. This solution is complementary to the Airtel usage SMS notifications that you receive at 70% and 90% usage of your bundle.

Secondly, it is important to keep track of the data bundles that you subscribe to, especially for users that subscribe to multiple bundles. Ideally, the bundles deplete in the order of validity. For example, a daily bundle will be utilized before a monthly bundle.

Sometimes you may subscribe to multiple data packs with different validity and volume caps e.g. daily, weekly or monthly and when one of them is expiring or has used a certain threshold, a notification will be sent that can confuse you thinking that all your bundles have expired.

In such cases, please check your volume first to see how much is left and also it is advisable to purchase a larger bundle preferably a monthly pack so that you can have uninterrupted service for the month.

Data sharing is the third way that data depletes fast. Data sharing products like Airtel’s Tugabane allow multiple users to browse on your account on their own lines. The product allows the customer to connect family and friends to the internet regardless of distance making is good monitoring and data management.

In this case, the person you are sharing with has more data affinity than you do, your depletion speed will be high as consumption is based on what the other user(s) are using the internet for.

It also is recommended that you keep your phone password protected from unauthorized users who may access your phone and subscribe themselves to your Tugabane account. So once done sharing, deactivate any extra users.

In line with the traditional data sharing products is the Wi-Fi hotspot. Customers are encouraged to often change their Wi-Fi hotspot passwords because if unchanged, people that have used it before, will be able to tap into the Wi-Fi whenever the opportunity presents. Sometimes, the passwords are shared with other people when the owner of the hotspot is unaware and this also contributes to a higher depletion rate. Also, customers should ensure their hotspots are password protected at all times.

Many of the smart devices we use, prefer to automatically update their software or accept automatic downloads from different sites. In your settings, always choose the option of updating software or downloads via Wi-Fi instead of using your running data bundle.

When watching news or videos online for example via Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp, manage the quality of the megapixels used to watch this media. Megapixels from 144p and above consume the most data.

Be careful not connect to unsecure wireless networks that can make your phone get affected by malware, bugs and viruses. They are major culprits of data depletion.

Dial *175# to enjoy the most affordable data bundles on the largest 4G network in Uganda.

The writer is director customer experience, Airtel Uganda

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