Fri | May 26, 2017

Whatsapp Most Popular Social Media App among Jamaican Diaspora

Published:Friday | January 6, 2017 | 1:00 AMSyranno Baines

As many as 60 per cent of Jamaicans residing overseas are opting to utilise instant messaging application WhatsApp over other means of communicating with loved ones.

A survey conducted by Ding, the world's largest top-up network, targeted members of the Jamaican diaspora who use their service to send top-up (credit) to their friends and family back home in Jamaica. The survey, conducted in December 2016, also showed that WhatsApp has a firm footing where overall popularity of social media applications is concerned.

Ding, which safely delivers a top-up every second of every day, was created to help people living abroad support loved ones back home. The company is directly connected to more than 400 operators in 130 countries with a reach of four billion phones.

Ding helps thousands of Jamaicans to send prepaid mobile top-up to FLOW Jamaica and Digicel Jamaica numbers every day. FLOW, which has a region-wide contract with Ding, also weighed in on the findings.

"Ding is one of our biggest partners and distributors of prepaid credit internationally to the Caribbean diaspora and complements our service to our customers outside of Jamaica," Garry Sinclair, Caribbean president for Cable and Wireless Communications, told The Gleaner.

When asked if the ever-growing popularity of social media, WhatsApp in particular, affected international calling plans and texts plans, Sinclair said: "Yes, it has, in fact, resulted in an increase in the use of data and a global reduction in voice calls. This is not unique to Jamaica. This is a global trend emanating from these types of Over The Top (OTT) services."

In a similar tone, Digicel stated: "The growing impact of OTTs has led to shifts in the way subscribers communicate. Our response has been to introduce superfast LTE technology and add more value to mobile data plans, including double allotment and free access to government websites, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Snapchat.

When asked if the top-up services provided entities such as Ding hamper mobile top-up sales, Digicel told The Gleaner: "We are encouraged by increasing customer preference for electronic top-up via local and overseas partners like Ding. This enhances our ability to expand top-up sales while making it more convenient for customers to activate data plans on receiving credit."

VITAL RESOURCE

In reference to the findings of the survey, Brand & Communications Manager for Ding Leslie Prendergast stated: "Mobile phones are a vital resource for people living abroad, and we wanted to find out how the Jamaican Diaspora is using theirs to keep in touch. It was interesting to find out that 62 per cent of respondents spend more than five hours daily on their phones. Family and friends are such a massive part of Jamaican culture, and we are delighted to play a role in helping them to connect with their loved ones."

With 90 per cent, the instant messaging application is the joint, most popular social media application, along with Facebook. Instagram garnered 50 per cent in the polls.

Of those surveyed, a bulky 95 per cent of the respondents owned mobile smart devices. Of that figure, 73 per cent cited their phones as the primary medium for accessing the Internet, with a similar 72 per cent expressing their inability to live without the portable device.

Sixty-two per cent of persons quizzed spend more than five hours daily on their mobile devices, while a massive 94 per cent sleep with the gadget turned on.

Forty-six per cent of those polled call their spouses first to relay news of a positive nature, with 82 per cent using their technological lifelines to make purchases.

Warren White, a 43-year-old resident of New Jersey, told The Gleaner: "I had an international talk plan way back when for a brief while, but nowadays, [I use] straight WhatsApp text or call."

He added: "Before WhatsApp, it was BBM when BlackBerry was the hit. Instant messaging is the most convenient thing for a man like me, always on the move and trying to keep in touch with my sons back home."

Similarly, his son, Frankie White, said: "I have two smartphones right now. An iPhone, from which I utilise WhatsApp and IG (Instagram), and a secondary smart device for work purposes such as emails and calls. Thinking back now, it's safe to say that WhatsApp is how I stay in touch with my relatives overseas and maintain majority of the contact locally."

syranno.baines@gleanerjm.com