Outhouses vs. TiVos

I came across this passage at the end of an article in USA Today:

[Google CEO Eric] Schmidt said he makes tons of searches daily on Google and uses it as a truth squad. He told of a politician who came to visit him who said there were more outhouses in the world than users of the TiVo digital video recorder. After the politician left, Schmidt looked it up. “We live in a world where people make all sorts of claims, and I always wonder if they’re true,” he said. Turned out the information was old — there are more TiVo users, he says. “Having the ability to search and get the answer is a nice way to live your life,” he says.

I was surprised. I would have thought there’d be a lot more outhouses in the world than TiVo users. So I thought I’d fact-check the fact-checking. But I’ve been unable to find outhouse statistics through Google searches. I did, though, come across a 2003 article that said that only 13% of Africans have sewage connections, which would indicate (I assume) quite a few outhouses. Can anybody out there confirm that Schmidt is right? And if you find good outhouse statistics through a Google search, let me know what keywords you used.

I’m just trying to separate the truth squad from the truthiness squad.

UPDATE: The consensus seems to be that Schmidt was referring to US outhouses, not worldwide outhouses, and he either misspoke or was misquoted. I feel relieved to have that cleared up. And remember: “Having the ability to search and get the answer is a nice way to live your life.” I know it’s all I ever wanted.

4 thoughts on “Outhouses vs. TiVos

  1. Ted Shelton

    Looks like a lot of people without sanitation which would mean something like an outhouse (or a tree?). But maybe he meant in the US, not worldwide… anyway here is the search I did:

    sanitation statistics world health organization

    and the link I eventually navigated to at WHO:


  2. Bob Aman

    When I was in Zambia, everyone just used a really deep pit in the ground that had a little foliage around it for privacy. Added a little extra challenge since you had to squat, do your thing, and try really hard not to fall into a 30 foot deep hole in the ground full of sewage.

  3. Mike Drips

    So it’s come to this: We are actually spending time on blogging about whether there are more people in the world that use outhouses or more people that use TiVo.

    Tragically there are people like myself that are reading these blogs and then wasting time commenting on them. Doh!

    I’m already ashamed of myself for falling into this morass of silliness.

  4. Nick Carr

    Mike: At least you didn’t have to pay anything to participate. By the way, right now on this page I see AdSense ads for both composting toilets and TiVos, which is kind of funny. Also, it makes me wonder: Has anyone, anywhere in the world, installed a TiVo system in an outhouse? Nick

Comments are closed.