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Apple mobility data reveals shift in SA movement

Aggregated navigation data from Apple Maps gleans mobility trends for cities and countries. Gadget’s BRYAN TURNER looks into the shift in South Africa’s movements during the COVID-19 crisis

Yesterday, Apple released a mobility data trends tool from Apple Maps to support work happening around the globe to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 – revealing significant shifts in both driving and walking behaviour over the past months. 

This mobility data may provide helpful insights to local governments and health authorities and may also be used as a foundation for new longer term public policies by showing the change in volume of people driving, walking or taking public transit in their communities. The data about COVID-19 mobility trends is available in csv format at

World Wide Worx has processed the data in the set that pertains to South Africa and its cities. However, while South African data tracked walking and driving data, it did not track public transport as in other countries. 

The number used to measure the data is baselined at 100 as at 13 January, and the final measurement date for our trends analysis is 12 April. 

Data by Apple. Graph by World Wide Worx.

Looking at driving patterns, one can see a peak on the day after the President’s announcement, followed by a decrease the following day and a massive drop-off when the lockdown started. Even before the lockdown had started, the trendline indicates that the month of March had seen stunted driving patterns, as companies and businesses imposed remote working strategies. 

Data by Apple. Graph by World Wide Worx.

Walking follows a similar pattern to that of driving, with a major drop off when lockdown was put into place. The number tends to dip over the weekends in times of lockdown, while it tended to peak over the week-ends pre-lockdown. 

Maps does not associate mobility data with a user’s Apple ID, and Apple does not keep a history of where a user has been. Using aggregated data collected from Apple Maps, the website indicates mobility trends for major cities and 63 countries or regions. The information is generated by counting the number of requests made to Apple Maps for directions. The data sets are then compared to reflect a change in volume of people driving, walking or taking public transit around the world. Data availability in a particular city, country, or region is subject to a number of factors, including minimum thresholds for direction requests made per day. 

Data by Apple. Graph by World Wide Worx.

The patterns of driving in Cape Town and Johannesburg are fairly similar, with slightly more driving activity happening in Johannesburg during lockdown. 

Data by Apple. Graph by World Wide Worx.

Walking patterns show a different story. Overall, Capetonians were by far the more active walkers before lockdown but, post lockdown, Johannesburgers walked slightly more than Capetonians. 

Apple has built privacy into the core of Maps, and data collected by Maps, like search terms, navigation routing, and traffic information, is associated with random, rotating identifiers that continually reset, so Apple doesn’t have a profile of your movements and searches. This enables Maps to provide a great experience, while protecting user privacy. 

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