“Only eight countries in Africa … have a majority of content that is locally produced,” according to a new study published last month in the Annals of the American Association of Geographers.
The study, which analysed over 32 000 Google searches of capital cities in 188 countries – the countries where Google is available, investigated where websites were sourced when a user searched for a capital city. Overall, researchers Andrea Ballatore, Mark Graham and Shilad Sen found that wealthier and well-connected countries had greater access to locally produced content than poor and poorly connected countries. The US alone supplied half of the first page content on Google for the results of 61 countries, according to the report.
South Africa, Tunisia and Madagascar scored among the best in Africa in regards to localness of content. The three countries scored “high” on the level of locally sourced content on Google searches related to capital cities, which is between 60-80% of the content being locally sourced.
The consequence of having countries in the Global North with easier access to locally sourced content is at the expense of representation of cities in the Global South, researchers said. With fewer countries having access to locally sourced content in the Global South, cities and their respective countries are skewed by Global North biases.
“This gives rise to a form of digital hegemony, whereby producers in a few countries get to define what is read by others,” the researchers said.
This was reflected in a search researchers did in a Google’s Ghanaian search for “Accra” where five out of the six countries where content was sourced came from the Global North.
The report attributed this partly to “socioeconomic systems that produce high-quality research also tend to produce highly visible online content” – metrics that countries in the Global South fared worse comparatively than its Global North counterpart. Other factors included that countries in Global South have a lower rate of Internet content production compared to the Global North and Google algorithms that favor pages that have been linked by other pages.