Covid brought major change in internet viewership: report

Published February 17, 2021
In this file photo, a person types on a laptop computer in Manhattan. — Reuters/File
In this file photo, a person types on a laptop computer in Manhattan. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: Amid threats of Covid-19 and lockdowns, the year 2020 witnessed a significant change in internet viewership as searches like sadqa, pet, cooking, mental health, gender equality, kids’ home activities, etc, at Google were among the top trends in Pakistan.

A report titled “What is Pakistan Searching for?” captures the collective trending searches and sheds light on what captured people’s curiosity for online users across the country.

Speaking at the online launch of the report, Faraz Azhar, industry head for South Asia at Google Asia Pacific, said Covid-19 had affected people in fundamental ways and changed how “we live our lives significantly”.

“It also created the desire for us to connect to our wider community and give back — as witnessed by 41 per cent increase in searches for sadqa,” he added.

Google searches of sadqa, cooking, mental health, gender equality, kids home activities among top trends in Pakistan

A significant growth of over 250pc was witnessed in searches for “kids home activities” as Pakistanis were finding ways to teach their kids at home while adjusting to the “new normal”, while 71pc increase was seen in searches for “how to be productive”. There was also a rise in searches for mental health-related information as people were finding ways to deal with the pandemic.

The Google report is also likely to benefit the businesses, mainly consumer items’ marketers, with insights into how brands can plan forward, as the businesses are seeking to understand how the pandemic has been changing behaviors and trends within their respective categories and how best to respond in the moments that matter most.

Aamir Altaf, country head of Google Customer Solutions Sales, South Asia, said the year 2020 had witnessed historic challenges. “Consumers are embracing the brands that spark joy and create a safe space for them to take a break,” he said, giving the example of online gaming that saw an increase of 35pc in searches, compared to a decline of 15pc in 2019.

He said the year 2020 saw a 328pc increase in searches for “dubbed in Urdu” in Pakistan, which indicated that brands were increasingly expected to keep in consideration their customers’ specific preferences.

The report outlined five key trends that are shaping Pakistanis’ search behaviour — “individual matters”, “higher purpose”, “whole selves,” “sweet relief” and “future proofing”. “Individual matters” have been explained by the Google report as the influence of global trend among the Pakistanis who pushed to confront societal stigmas and complex issues.

Under the impact of “Black lives matter” and other developments, there was a 40pc increase in searches for “gender equality” in Pakistan.

Similarly, searches for “mental health support” saw an increase of 100pc, and proactive health management is on the rise, with 109pc growth in searches for “disease prevention” in a year that saw so many lost so much because of the pandemic.

During the lockdowns, Pakistanis have been reassessing the impact on the environment and witnessed a 128pc surge in searches for “reusable” as people sought ways to change their consumption habits. There was also an increased desire to proactively connect to wider community to help and give back, with a 122pc increase in searches for “charity work”.

Under stress and lockdowns, people also searched for comfort and ways to de-stress more than the previous years, as there was a 90pc increase in searches for “gaming chair”.

While social distancing became the new way of life, there was a 700pc surge in searches for “adopt a pet”, and with people seeking to indulge themselves while spending more time at home, there was a 140pc growth in recipe searches for “easy dessert”.

Apart from relaxation and time spending searches, people also focused on strengthening their economic prospects by boosting their skills and financial knowledge and there was a 223pc growth in searches for “stock investing”.

Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2021

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