Digital universe equal to 17 billion 8GB iPhones

12 Mar 2008

The digital universe in 2007 was equal to almost 45GB of digital information for every person on earth – equal to over 17 billion 8GB iPhone devices.

The digital universe grew 10pc from 2006 to amount to 281 billion gigabytes as a result of accelerated growth in worldwide shipments of digital cameras, digital surveillance cameras and digital TVs.

On top of the growth of social networks and digital content created by many millions of online consumers, the fastest-growing corners of the digital universe include the emergence of internet access in developing countries.

The study by IDC, on behalf of storage giant EMC, found that all the digital information generated about the average person each day – the “digital shadow” created by their using the internet, passing through sensors and making financial transactions – now surpasses the amount of digital information individuals actively create themselves.

“We discovered that only about half of your digital footprint is related to your individual actions – taking pictures, sending emails or making digital voice calls,” said John Gantz, chief research officer and senior vice-president, IDC.

“The other half is what we call the ‘digital shadow’ – information about you – names in financial records, names on mailing lists, web-surfing histories or images taken of you by security cameras in airports or urban centres. For the first time, your digital shadow is larger than the digital information you actively create about yourself.”

Enterprise IT organisations which gather the information comprising our digital shadows have a tremendous responsibility – in many cases mandated by law – for the security, privacy protection, reliability and legal compliance of this information.

“Society is already feeling the early effects of the world’s digital information explosion. Organisations need to plan for the limitless opportunities to use information in new ways and for the challenges of information governance,” said Joe Tucci, EMC chairman, president and CEO.

“As people’s digital footprints continue to grow, so too will the responsibility of organisations for the privacy, protection, availability and reliability of that information. The burden is on IT departments within organisations to address the risks and compliance rules around information misuse, data leakage and safeguarding against security breaches.”

Due to its vast size and rapid expansion, both consumers and businesses are experiencing the impact of the digital universe in many profound ways.

IDC reports the information explosion creates new complexity for IT organisations charged with managing digital information, which is growing rapidly in size and becoming more diverse.

Consumers will also struggle with the growth of their own digital information as they attempt to figure out what to do with all the data they’re creating.

By John Kennedy