Perception is reality about water on Blog Action Day

by Jim Cain

We spend most of our time at Napkyn global headquarters helping people make sense of the web component of their business.  It’s powerful, it’s fun (at least we think so), and it has a huge impact.

We love using data to create a real picture of something intangible.  Looking at the numbers around safe drinking water are enough to make any analyst have an emotional response.

Today is’s Blog Action Day 2010, and the theme is around water.  While it is something we take for granted, it’s a very real issue in the developing world.  Here’s some numbers:

  • African women walk over 40 billion hours each year for the purpose of gathering water, much of which isn’t safe to drink.
  • 38000 kids under the age of 5 die every week from unsafe drinking water and unhygienic conditions.
  • Every day, 2,000,000 tons of human waste are dumped into water sources.
  • Kids in developing countries lose 443 million school days a year due to diseases associated with the lack of water, sanitation and hygiene.

Profound data huh?  As a new dad these stats are very unsettling.  Imagine feeling powerless about getting your kid water to drink — I felt guilty that my 10-year-old didn’t have a case for his Nintendo DSi.

With numbers this significant, Internet users (who at the touch of a button can learn anything they want and donate money anywhere) must have been asking Google a lot of questions on what the issues are and what they can do to help.

Let’s look at some data from Google on search behavior since 2004.

I chose two phrases tied to the issue of clean water (Safe Drinking Water/Clean Drinking Water), and three of the most irreverent things I could think of (Gary Busey/Paris Hilton’s Feet/Turducken).  Here are the stats on search popularity on Google.

Pretty sad stuff, huh? Turducken has it’s one big peak a year at Thanksgiving, Gary Busey is a surprisingly heavy hitter in search (I guess Entourage helped, because he hasn’t been in a big movie since Under Siege in 1992), and this represents the major search traffic.

Let’s go down to 15 and below to see the details.

Clean drinking water is often never searched for at all, in fact it is searched for less often than people who are researching Paris Hilton’s feet (I shudder to think). Here’s my guess as to why: if you have an Internet connection, the phrase Clean Drinking Water is redundant. Why would you drink something that wasn’t clean? Check out these two maps for more insight on this: There is a direct correlation between areas with safe drinking water and high numbers of IP Addresses. Internet Users dont worry about water.

The term “safe drinking water” trends a little better, especially among Internet users in South Africa. On average it gets searched for slightly more often than almost every term other than Gary Busey.

Try this out for yourself with random terms, you will learn all kinds of things like “Kirk Cameron is much more popular than Safe Drinking Water, but Garden Gnomes are less popular”.

Sad Stuff.

This isn’t to say that we Internet users are bad people, but to have immediate access to libaries of information we sure spend our time looking at stupid crap, (no offense Mr. Busey).

Here’s one last number: 25. It’s the minimum number of dollars you need to donate at You don’t even need to get out of your chair, unless your wallet is in the other room.

Clean water is a basic human right. Internet is not. Use the power of one to empower the other and help optimize these sad numbers.



Jim Cain

Founder and CEO, Napkyn Analytics

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