Jan 20, 2010

Difficulties of cross-country comparisons

A paper in the last issue of The Information Society analyzes popular searches in Google and Yahoo across multiple countries ("Popular Searches in Google and Yahoo!: A “Digital Divide” in Information Uses?", by Elad Segev and Niv Ahituv, N26(1)). The authors show that users from Russia make more queries regarding economics and politics and offer some explanations of why users from the US and some other Western countries focus more on entertainment, while users from other countries are more interested in the issues of economic and political value.

With cross-country comparisons it is very difficult to develop a common ground. Google and yahoo as international search engines seem to be good candidates to provide such a ground. But how many people in non-English countries use google and yahoo? As far as I know one of the most popular search engines in Russia is yandex.ru (a service that has many services similar to google). So it could be that those who use google in Russia are on the much more advanced side in terms of education, information skills, etc. Then the conclusions about digital divide based on the analysis of google and yahoo become less valid.

According to yandex statistics "Runet content" (http://clck.yandex.ru/redir/dtype=stred/pid=39/cid=2948/*download.yandex.ru/company/yandex_on_content_autumn_2009.pdf) the most popular searches fall into the categories of "download something", "games", "weather", and "dating". Far from the issues of economical and political values. To be convinced by the results of the research published in The Information Society one would have to look at the statistics of search engine preferences in each country.