Searches show people are feeling the uncertainty: What we are seeing and how technology can help

By Dorothy Ooko

In the eleven years since I joined Google, I’ve seen a few periods of global uncertainty, including the increasing frequency of climate-related disasters, and a global pandemic. Each brought their own degree of uncertainty – and each time, we saw people turn to Google to seek out information to help them make decisions.

We are again seeing search trends that show people in Kenya are feeling unsure about the world around them. Fortunately, a lot has changed in the past fifteen years that can help. In 2007, only 20 percent of the world’s population had internet access. Today, 95 percent of Europe and 60 percent of the world are online: with all the information, skills and support that technology can provide.

Technology cannot solve all of the concern and anxiety that these trends show – but it can be used to help. Here are some trends we are seeing and how technology and business can and should intervene.

Concerns about covid and the climate are not going anywhere

As the Kenyan economy  re-opens, it could be tempting to think that the uncertainty of the pandemic is behind us. Search interest in coronavirus hit an all-time high worldwide in March 2020 – but it is far from leaving people’s concerns entirely, as searches have changed to reflect new phases of the pandemic.

In the last 90 days, searches for “covid symptoms and signs” increased by 350 percent, while searches for “covid situation in Kenya” and “symptoms of covid-19” increased by 200 percent. We will continue to provide accurate and timely information on everything from symptoms to vaccines as people strive to return to everyday life.

Additionally, search trends show that apprehension about the climate crisis is growing where Kenya is the second African country searching most for greenwashing in the past 12 months. The search terms “greenwashing meaning” increased by 40 percent since this time last year. Greenwashing represents attempts by businesses to present their products and operations as environmentally friendly while in reality they are environmentally harmful.

Businesses need to both help customers make small, meaningful changes and to walk the walk themselves, reducing emissions and cutting their footprint.

Creating technology to help achieve this is a key part of our role. We want to help 1 billion people make more sustainable choices by the end of this year. We are making changes to our most popular products to help make sustainable decisions easier. Our eco-friendly routing, available in Europe later this year, will help users cut their bills and emissions by providing them with the most fuel-efficient route, as well as the quickest. We estimate that change alone could save 1 million tonnes of carbon emissions a year.

Cybersecurity and privacy online have never been more important

With more people using the internet to manage their daily lives than ever, it is no surprise that we are seeing more searches about cybersecurity and privacy. Kenya is one of the ten countries searching most for private browsing in the world in the past year. Searches interest in phishing reached the highest point of the last decade in June.

The searches, “Phishing email meaning” went up by 712 percent, while “phishing attack” and “what is phishing” doubled. Searches for privacy in general went up by 40 percent compared to this time last year while search terms related to privacy also went up – with “privacy policy generator” increasing by 350 percent percent, “right to privacy” by 180 percent, and “data privacy Kenya” up 80 percent.

People want to embrace technology but they want to know that their personal information will be safe. To help with that, we built many of the internet’s first tools to manage your data – like the Privacy Checkup, a central place which allows you to review your key privacy settings, and Takeout – where you can download or delete your Google data. We are also working with the industry and regulators to make changes across the board where we are prioritising users’ privacy and security.

People want to understand the wider economic uncertainty – and are keen to save

As our CEO, Sundar Pichai, said recently, we face “an uncertain global economic outlook”. Search trends show that people want to better understand what is happening and how they can manage it. Search interest in Money peaked in Kenya in May 2022 and the search term, “How to save money” has increased by 20% since this time last year.

We have seen this before. During the pandemic, businesses that adopted new digital skills built ‘a digital safety net’. Working in partnership with governments and other organisations, we helped 10 million people to find jobs, digitise and grow across the region – and we stand ready to support again now.

These trends show people feel uncertain about what lies ahead, but no matter where we head, I am hopeful that technology will form a part of the solution. Our mission at Google to make information accessible and useful has never been more important: and we’re here to help.

(Dorothy Ooko is Head of Communications & Public Affairs, Google Africa).


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.