IN his acceptance speech yesterday Barack Obama sent a message to those people “huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world” — but perhaps he should have mentioned web surfers as well.
The significance of Senator Obama’s election win to the world at large is made clear by the number of web searches for information on the candidate coming from developing countries.
According to Google Insights, the web giant’s search analysis tool, African nations led the world in the concentration of searches for “barack obama” over the past 12 months.
Cameroon, Rwanda, Mali, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Ghana all placed ahead of the US in a regional ranking of interest in the candidate’s name. Nine of the top 10 nations in the list were African.
Africa also dominated the popularity of searches for “us election” over the past 30 days, with Ethiopia, Nigeria and Kenya ranked before Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
Senator Obama’s father Barack Obama Sr was a Kenyan economist who died in 1982. Senator Obama was born in Hawaii and later lived in Indonesia and Chicago.
Africa has seen unprecedented growth in mobile phone usage in recent years, but has lagged behind in internet use.
Less than 4 per cent of Africans have access to the internet, and less than 1 per cent have access to a broadband connection, the United Nations reported last year.
Kenyan media outlets have celebrated Senator Obama’s election win with headlines including “Nation erupts in ecstasy” and “You have done us proud”.
“As Kenyans we believe that with this win by our son, (the US) will implement Africa-friendly policies that could lift not just the continent, but our nation from poverty,” one Kenyan living in the US told Kenya’s The Daily Nation.
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki declared a public holiday today to celebrate Senator Obama’s win.
Leading political website The Huffington Post, one of the first prominent outlets to call yesterday’s election result as an Obama win, followed its coverage today with images of Kenyans, including relatives of Senator Obama, watching the election on television and celebrating the result.
Google Insights measures the popularity of search terms across different regions by comparing the number of searches made on a particular term to the overall number of searches in each region.
While it is not clear that African nations produced more searches on Senator Obama overall, the figures suggest that a higher percentage of web users in those countries were looking for information on the candidate.
“Obama” appeared in the top 10 most popular search terms this week in both the US and Kenya.
Regional interest in “us election” (30 days)
Regional interest in “barack obama” (12 months)