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Billions of Google searches shows Germany is most forward-looking country

31 January 2013 Warwick, University of

The UK has been knocked off its perch as the most forward-looking country by Germany.

A new analysis of millions of Google queries found that in 2012 Germany searched for the future on the internet more than any other country. The UK held the number one spot in 2011, but slipped to fourth in 2012.

The Future-Orientation Index has been put together by Warwick Business School Associate Professor Tobias Preis and Dr Helen Susannah Moat, of University College London. They analysed millions of Google logs from 2012 from 45 different countries to calculate the ratio of the volume of searches for ‘2013’ to the volume of searches for ‘2011’.

Previous research using this search data has shown that countries with internet users who search for more information about the future tend to have a higher per-capita GDP (Preis, Moat, Bishop and Stanley, 2012).

The Future-Orientation Index for 2012 shows Germany as the nation most focused on the future, with Japan second, Switzerland third and the UK fourth. At the bottom of the rankings are Pakistan, Vietnam and Kazakhstan.

In 2011 the UK was the nation most focused on 2012 in comparison to 2010, as the country prepared for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Poland and Ukraine also ranked higher in 2011, in the lead up to their joint hosting of the European Football Championships in 2012, but fell 11 and 13 places each in 2012. Germany’s rise up the charts in 2012 may be driven by a focus on their upcoming general elections, scheduled for this year.

Nigeria was the biggest climber in 2012, moving up 15 places and despite its economy entering its fifth recession in 15 years, Japan also made a big leap up the Future-Orientation Index, rising nine to third.

Dr Preis, Associate Professor of Behavioural Science and Finance at Warwick Business School, said: “In general we find a strong tendency for countries in which Google users enquire more about the future to exhibit a larger per capita GDP. There seems to be a relationship with the economic success of a country and the information seeking behaviour of its citizens online.”

Dr Moat from UCL’s Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering added: “We see two leading explanations for this relationship between search activity and GDP. Firstly, these findings may reflect international differences in attention to the future and the past, where a focus on the future supports economic success. Secondly, these findings may reflect international differences in the type of information sought online, perhaps due to economic influences on available Internet infrastructure”.

http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/analysis_of_billions

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