Two indicators that can be used to measure a nation’s ability not only to survive but also to thrive are the nation’s top interests and the nation’s literacy rate. This does not preclude that there are other indicators as well, but in an age where knowledge is king, a nation will be definitely doomed if its people lack knowledge or are not interested in obtaining knowledge. Our Arab nations in particular have been underdeveloped although they have the top oil and energy reserves in the world. But, why is that the case?
Internet Search Trends
To explore what issues Arabs are interested in, what better way than to look at top search internet trends data. Google Trends in particular track the “key word” search that every country has used for the whole year. Google Trends however does not include all countries in its tracking. Nonetheless, for the sake of comparison, I have explored what people in United States of Emirate, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon have search for the whole year of 2013. And, in contrast, I have also explored the top searches the Israelis, our enemy, have searched. These top search trends, although not very accurate would give some insight on a nation’s interest throughout a whole year, estimated at billions of internet searches. However, the Lebanon top search trends for 2013 do not appear on Google trends, but were yielded manually by a hack,and so the results might be, or might not be as accurate as those of UAE, KSA, and Israel.
What do the Top Search Trends Say? (See the comparison chart below).
Well, you can see the similarities of interests between UAE, KSA and Lebanon. All seem to have common interests in latest mobile phones in the market. They are interested in entertainment whether TV series, TV shows, movies, or movie theaters. They are also interested in current issues that touch their daily lives, like corona virus, earthquake in Dubai, Rain in Tabuk. These can be categorized as temporal issues, things that they are not interested in usually but they became interested at a particular time because the issue either elevated their anxiety, like corona virus, or leveraged their interest. In other words, they are not interested in corona virus per se, like they want to know and learn about it, but it is only because corona virus outbreak was in KSA that they became curious to explore more about it. Would they ever think of searching about it if it were in Japan for example? My guess is absolutely not.
Compare the search trends of UAE, KSA, and Lebanon on one side with those of the Israelis on the other. Notice that they are interested in topics such as elections, contracting, polio, bubble soap, how to search, finding clones, communicating confidentially, making an animal seat, making charoset ( a paste), removing QVO6 ( a virus, an adware). The first thing that strikes me the most is the action verbs that they use, or rather implied in their searches. They want to know how to “make”, or “remove” or “communicate”, while people in UAE, KSA, and Lebanon want to “watch”, “see”, “listen”, and perhaps “know” (because of necessity); all these are passive verbs, not productive.
Notice also that the Israelis are interested in topics that really matter in every day life, surely not iPhones and Iron Man 3.
UAE Top Search Trends for 2013
KSA Top Search Trends for 2013
Israel Top Search Trends for 2013
Lebanon Top Search Trends for 2013 (Manual Trend)
So, what would the short comparison above on the peoples’ interest show about them? Israelis have different mindset than Arabs. Israelis are action oriented; they search to know, and to do, to act. Arabs search for luxury, entertainment, and out of necessity to know, but not to act. This shows a trend of Arabs as consuming society not productive one.
Literacy: How much Arabs read?
Based on a UN survey and a survey conducted by Arab Thought Foundation, Al-Arabiya reports in its article “Sum of all fears” that Arabs read an average of 6 pages per year. On another survey “…on reading habits in the Middle East in April 2011 made for a depressing read. Only one in five read on a regular basis and among those under 25 ─ nearly 65 per cent of the 3,667 questioned by Yahoo! Maktoob Research ─ about one in three seldom or never read a book for pleasure.” Still, another survey conducted by Arab News “…revealed that only two in ten [Saudi] people read on a regular basis. The survey also revealed that 80 percent of individuals do not read during their free time.” Same results about Arab reading habit were published on the Israeli National News.
According to UN, Israelis read an average of 6 books per year, Americans read an average of 11 books a year, with the average Briton reading eight books. The U.N. survey reported that every year, one new book title is published per 12,000 people in the Arab world, as compared with one per 500 people in Britain. Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) says Israel publishes more than 4,000 books a year, making Israel the second highest per-capita publisher in the world, after the People's Republic of China.
…. So What?
Although the two indicators, people’s common interests and level of literacy are not the only indicators to predict the downfall or the superiority of a nation, they do give some insight into the future of our Arab nation. The problem is the Arab “mindset”. We are now hardwired to the newest gadgets, entertainment, etc. and even if we claim that we read in schools and universities, these are only textbooks and won’t nurture one’s mind until one embeds a reading habit within his/her everyday life. There should a shift in paradigm , from a mindset of receiving and consuming to a mindset of producing and caring.