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Questions Kenyans wanted answered in past 12 months

By Jacqueline W Mahugu | December 27th 2015

What did Kenyans really want to know in the past 12 months? Who did they want to know about, and what event or which subject bothered them so much and where did they seek answers?

Many might not know the answers to some of those questions, but they can be sure that Kenyans sought answers from friends and relatives or even their teachers. It used to be that simple. Friends and relatives and elders always had answers. That was then.

Nowadays, Kenyans, especially the tech savvy ones, have a friend in Google, the internet search engine which has all answers to all questions under the sun and beyond.

And so, it came to pass that when Kenyans encountered questions their church elders and politicians and journalists could not answer, they stopped scratching their heads, and started thinking with their fingers.

On their tablets. On their computers. Or on their phones. Their fingers did the walking, to Google. And they got answers.

And there is a price they have to pay because Google does not keep secrets, and neither does it forget.

So, everything Kenyans searched on Google, Google kept records. And Google has given a report which reveals that Kenyans searched what teenage pregnancy is. They also asked what poverty is. Odd.

In a country where over 50 per cent of the 42 million strong population reportedly live below a dollar a day, you would expect people to know what poverty is. But that is neither here nor there.

In its Year In Search report for 2015, Google reveals that Kenyans also searched, and by inference wanted to know to know how to play lotto, how to lose belly fat, how to download a YouTube video (which is illegal anyway), how to okoa stima, how to write a formal letter, how to practice typing on a computer, how to pray with the rosary, how to bet, how to convert a PDF to word document and how to bake a simple cake.

Such a change from 2014 when Kenyans were so preoccupied with Vera Sidika that she was the Most Searched personality.

Could it be that priorities have changed, or Vera is so last year, literally, and the Auma Obama’s of this world have made Kenyans realise there is just so much we can say about a protuberance?

Priorities could have changed. Many Kenyans found themselves suddenly in the dark this year, or had their hot shower suddenly turn cold in the middle of a bath, that they just had to try and find out how to okoa stima, which is all about getting a prepaid power token on loan.

This service was introduced by Kenya Power, through Safaricom, and it was one of the top searches in the How To category.

Either the economy is bad, or we just love easy money considering that the top item in the How To category was How to Play Lotto and number eight was How To Bet.

The  “xaxa xema xoxo” generation, the “Generation Y do you do the things you do” was also in the house, represented by the query How to Write a Formal Letter.

After Auma Obama hugged the most powerful man in the world — her brother Barack Obama — and became the first Kenyan to ride in the Beast, she was destined to be on the list of 2015 Most Trending Personality.

She was in the company of other personalities who appeared for reasons ranging from infamy to entertainment. These include Fidel Odinga at the very top, and Pastor Nganga at the very bottom, with Gloria Muliro, Paul Kobia, Murimi wa Kahalf, Mugo wa Wairimu and Jackie Maribe in between.

For a person who dominated the news and social media sites as much as she did, where, pray tell, is Ann Waiguru? Even Google has no answer for that.

Moving on swiftly, this was the year that we saw POTUS and the Pontiff visit Kenya. It was also the year that Kenyans, and the rest of East Africa asked “What would Magufuli do” after the Tanzanian elections, which was one of the top ten Trending Events.

President Obama’s visit topped the Trending Events list, followed Pope Francis’ visit, the Garissa University attack, the teachers strike, Mayweather vs Pacquiao, beatification of Sister Nyaatha, the Tanzanian elections, Paris attacks, Blood moon and COPA America.

This year’s General Searches were, in order, Fidel Odinga, iTax, Obama and Pope Francis. In the same category was Garissa attack, the teachers’ strike, with the Beast driving in at number eight, ahead of boxer Mayweather and COPA America.

US musician Adele has been on a roll over the past few months, knocking everyone off the charts everywhere, even in Kenya. Her song, Hello, topped the category of Music Search.

So popular is the song in Kenya that some artistes have done cover versions, or their own versions, and received varied responses. The operative phrase here is “own versions”, a liberty which some artistes took outside the realms of our wildest dreams.

No matter how popular that song is, there are versions that Kenyans could not have seen coming, and we shall leave it at that.

Hopefully, Kenyans’ musical taste is not a reflection of their patriotism, as Sauti Sol’s Nerea is the only Kenyan song that made it on the Most Trending Music category.

After Hello, the Most Searched songs this year were Amarula by Roberto, Nerea, Classic Man by Jidenna, Hotline Bling by Drake, See You Again, Trap Queen by Fetty Wap, Nae Nae by Silento, Bad Blood by Taylor Swift and - by Ariana Grande.

Sadly, the candle went out for a number of prominent personalities. Top on the search list of People We Lost were Fidel Odinga, Muna Obiekwe, Bobbi Kristina, George Muchai, Nana Gichuru, Murimi wa Kahalf, Grace Ogot, Mzee Ojwang and Jonah Lomu.

Fidel Odinga was the biggest search this year, and is the only search item that appears as number one in three categories: Most Trending general searches, Most Trending Kenyan Personalities and People We Lost in 2015.

Once in a while you also get a top search item that is quite the oddball like the one in the What Is category, which was the query, What is Teenage Pregnancy? It was nestled between What is Eurobond and What is the Beast?

Kenyans also wanted to know what xenophobia, beatification, poverty, POTUS, Ebola, climate change and ISIS are.

It looks like Kenyans’ search items are generally influenced top news items in mainstream media, top trends in social media and entertainment news, though as evidenced by the surprising presence and distinct absence of some items, that might not be the case.

It will be interesting to see what Kenyans search for in 2016.

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