As 2020 comes to a close, Pakistan along with the rest of the world is wrapping up a historic year that will be remembered for the emergence of a global pandemic. Everything has changed in the past eight months or so. How we work, how we travel, how we communicate, how we entertain ourselves, and how we learn. Everything from sports, to schooling and how we shop has changed, and the world has spent its time coming to terms with and getting used to ‘the new normal.’
This year has been a hard one, particularly for Pakistan. Even before the coronavirus was on anyone’s mind, the country was on the brink of tough economic times and the pandemic has only exacerbated our problems. The death and exhaustion from the pandemic has taken its toll, and calamities like the PIA crash, unemployment and other crises have not helped.
However, as with any other calamitous year, the world does move in. A good way to measure this is Google’s recently announced Year in Search review for Pakistan. The review has listed a number of searches that have been popular in Pakistan, and tries to look back at the year 2020 through the collective eyes of searches on Google Pakistan and offers a perspective on the year’s major events, hottest trends and changes in behavior due to Covid-19 based on searches conducted in Pakistan. This year’s trending searches, just like every other year, were dominated by everyone’s favorite sport – cricket. However, there is more to be gained from these top search results than just the reaffirmation that Pakistan is a cricket crazy nation. Here are our priorities during 2020, as per our Googling.
This has topped the search results on Google in Pakistan for 2020. The most searched thing this year in Pakistan was the term ‘Pakistan vs England.’ That, of course, has a reason. When the first cases began to emerge in March, everything was affected and the world of sports essentially came to a halt with everything else. However, Pakistan and the West Indies were the first two countries to volunteer sending sports teams to another country to play.
After a large gap where there had been no sports and people were worried, the visit of the Pakistan cricket team to England caused significant excitement. The trend of cricket being in the top searches continued with more than half of the top 10 search trends for 2020 in Pakistan being related to cricket. Once again, this only goes to show us how big the sport is in Pakistan, and what the potential for it is if it is run efficiently with good business sense.
While it is strange that the coronavirus pandemic has taken second place to something on search results in 2020, the pandemic still remained an obvious concern for people. The term ‘Coronavirus’ was the second most searched term in Pakistan for the year 2020, and the word ‘Worldometers’ came in at number 10, indicating the clear anxieties of people checking constantly the number of cases and deaths occurring everyday from the virus.
The other significant top search result was ‘Google Classroom,’ which came in at number three right after ‘Coronavirus.’ One of the sectors worst affected by the pandemic was the education sector, having to shift completely online in next to no time. A lot of innovation has had to be made and a lot of teachers have had to retrain and recalibrate themselves because of the unprecedented circumstances. Platforms like Google Classroom or Zoom have now become vital to everyday life and business has been booming for these services in this time.
The thing of interest is, that if people get used to it, a lot of things may just move online even after the pandemic has been brought to heel, not because it is necessary, but because people have gotten used to it. Advances in technology will also make experiences better and result in a very different world from the one we remember pre-pandemic. These kinds of hopes have also been made for e-commerce, which has seen a boom in Pakistan this year because of the pandemic, with people becoming more comfortable with the concept.
With more and more people staying home instead of going out and about their days, the demand for television entertainment has increased exponentially. The demand for Netflix in Pakistan has skyrocketed, with one report suggesting 80,000 Pakistanis have signed onto the platform and are paying for services. Television stars including Uzma Khan and the Turkish actress Esra Bilgic have been in top searches for celebrities. Among shows, the top 10 search results include names such as Ertugral, Money Heist, and Kurulus Osman, indicating the Pakistani appetite for foreign shows worth binging.
However, another more fascinating trend has also emerged. Among the google searches for celebrities, there are at least three people that got their starts in stardom recently, and not through the trifecta of acting-singing-modeling, but through TikTok. Hareem Shah and Minahil Malik, both TikTokers, have been searched for more than actresses like Esra Bilgic, who has been given a sponsorship contract by Jazz, and just behind figures like Joe Biden.
Politics has been the last thing that has dominated the minds of Pakistanis this year. Particularly close attention was paid to the Presidential elections in the United States, perhaps because of how long it took for the results to be finalised, but also because of the importance of the election globally thanks to the US response to the coronavirus pandemic.
‘US Elections 2020’ was the fifth most searched term overall, and Joe Biden was the third most searched person in Pakistan in 2020. Other than the US elections, the Gilgit Baltistan election this year was also one of the most searched topics after intense campaigning in the region that still resulted in the PTI winning, which is reflective of how politics has continued to run in Pakistan without much care for the ongoing pandemic.