Nigerians Online: What Our Google Search Says About Us


I’ve previously written on the power and potential of technology and crowdsourcing in Nigeria. Another example of an important use of crowdsourcing power comes from Google. Almost as significant as the answers we get from Google are the questions we ask Google. These searches reflect the collective interests and priorities of a nation. Greg Tkacz, an associate professor of Economics states that Google trends “can potentially quantify what had previously been non-quantifiable”. Evidently, Google even predicted the global recession up to three months before its outset and can predict flu outbreaks. Do our searches say a lot about who we are and where we’re headed to in the future? Most certainly.

According to a study in the Scientific Reports, Internet users in countries with greater socio-economic health are more likely to use Google to search for information about the future than about the past. Clearly, a correlation exists between citizens who productively search on the Internet and the nation’s industriousness.

Are we Nigerians expending our technological resources effectively and productively? Let’s find out from this infographics.

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From the infographics, our main interests on the Internet seem to centre on Football, Search, Social Networks, and the News.  I’m not sold on the productivity of these search groups, apart from Search and News. And even then, it’s hard to determine if what is being searched or the news being read are in any way productive. After all, Kim Kadashin’s visit to Nigeria counted as news. The same applies to Football and Social Networks. As much as I love football, the knowledge of it cannot be categorized as useful. The knowledge of football players, their heights and what they eat in the morning only becomes beneficial if one was a paid sport pundit.  So overall, the top searches since the start of the year have not been incredibly productive.

Google also has the ability to show rising trends (searches that are rapidly becoming popular). On the rising trends for Nigeria, the main searches are:

  1. Jamb (Students sweating blood as they check their JAMB results)
  2. Whatsapp (Nigerians ditching their laggy Blackberry phones in droves are moving to Whatsapp)
  3. Linda Ikeji (sigh…more Nigerians wasting their time on gossips)
  4. 2go (not sure who uses this, but a lot of people do…apparently)
  5. ASUU (students who schooled abroad searching for the meaning of ASUU)
  6. Gmail (Nigerians are finally realizing how archaic & terrible Yahoo Mail is)
  7. News (less people are watching NTA?).

Again, our searches aren’t terrifically constructive. I’ll admit, this is a simplistic measure of productivity, but it does show an undeniably accurate trend. From the trends, an alien would postulate that Nigerians love chatting, gossip, and football; are on strike when in school and desperately in need of a job when out of school. It’s a fascinating picture that shows a disconnect of interest and present conditions: interests remain superficial, while conditions stay dire.

So should Internet search solely be on productive stuff? Nope. There’s certainly a time for leisure, but when that’s all the Internet is used for, we’re wasting another resource – much like we’ve wasted our oil. In the midst of ignorance, mediocrity and stagnancy, our greatness might just be a click away. What’re you using the internet for?

NB: Btw, to emphasize the power of a productive search, the infographics in this article was created thanks to a simple Google search.

  • Interesting perspective. I doubt it would be radically different for other countries (eve developed ones), as I suppose it would be a function of demographics, perhaps movies/music instead of football. Real, upward development ‘movement’ I suppose would mostly the ‘right and productive’ individuals in the most essential positions across the polity and society, and I suppose ‘others’ would fall in line or at least reap the benefits of the ‘spill-over productivity’.

  • Yeah. It wasn’t radically different. Did have a mix or two on policies compared to Nigeria or other developing countries. Interestingly, a top search across nations was ‘How to love’. Seems it’s a global question. Ha

  • lafman

    People do their searches using gooogle when they can’t find a direct website and that why individuals make use of the search engine. While many individuals go directly to a particular site to get the info they need. For example JAMB most applicants to the university will use google to locate the site and continue their enquiry.

    • Yep. You’re right. However, it does show that they express interest in getting to the site they want. Google just gives us the opportunity to see this. Another good method that would factor in your observation would be to use the stats on ‘top visited websites in Nigeria’. Cheers.

  • Hmmmm very thoughtful

  • Chukwudi Ezekwesili

    This piece just reminds me the video we saw of a young lad in a destabilized nation, that had so much in-depth insight on topical issues, and kept us agape with such adept analysis. When asked how he knew so much, he said, “…the internet..”. In the light of the change that has come to nations where people have come together to push for reforms, riding on the wings of social media technologies; is it not ironical that Nigeria – in its current situation – ranks 3rd in social media presence in Africa, has a projected mobile penetration of 82% by 2015, and a youth population of roughly 65%?

  • oluwasegun

    Can we have a demography for US and Europe and do a comparism.

  • Well done, well written. It will be interesting to note also the average age in a country and in Nigeria it’s between 17-19 and this demographic are getting connected by the day. I will expect a country with much higher median age say 28-35 to have more ‘productive search trends’ which reflects the demographic in their productive stage of life. Either way its very useful info graphics and writeup.

    • Yeah. That would be an interesting piece of data to have. Unfortunately, the results are not broken down according to age, since it would be rather impossible to have the age of one doing a Google search. However, I share your hypothesis. A higher age bracket would likely have more productive searches than a much younger one of 17-19. Great observation. Cheers.

  • Reply: Interesting article. Scores a point too. Analyzing Twitter followership also gives a fair insight into the desires of The Twitterati. Entertainment; music and sports tops the charts. http://ikhidero.wordpress.com/2013/09/14/what-does-twitter-really-say/ ‎explains it.

    • Yeah. Followership on Twitter is certainly another way of calculating aggregate interest. Cheers.

  • Amazing. There’s so much productive stuff we can do on the internet and it’s pretty upsetting to note that we mostly use the internet for unproductive reasons. Young people these days can tell you what Kim Kardashian had for breakfast, who she’s dating now, the latest players to be signed into football clubs, how much they cost… whereas seriously lacking basic information of great intellectual value to them. I really hope we begin to get things right in this country. Information is important. We must learn and grow. Great piece Chuba 🙂

  • chioma nwanmuo

    Just going through most of your works now, and am so impressed, subscribed to get alerts on my mail box. Thought provoking indeed. Keep it up…

  • Damola

    Impressive perspective