Exabytes: Documenting the ‘Digital Age’ and Huge Growth in Computing Capacity.

Washington Post (02/10/11) Brian Vastag

The global capacity to store digital information totaled 276 exabytes in 2007, according to a University of Southern California (USC) study. However, that data is not distributed equally, with a distinct line dividing rich and poor countries in the digital world, says USC’s Martin Hilbert. In 2007, people in developed countries had access to about 16 times greater bandwidth than those in poor countries. “If we want to understand the vast social changes underway in the world, we have to understand how much information people are handling,” Hilbert says. The study found that 2002 marked the first year that worldwide digital storage capacity was greater than total analog capacity. “You could say the digital age started in 2002,” Hilbert says. “It continued tremendously from there.” Digital media accounted for 25 percent of all information stored in the world in 2000, but just seven years later 94 percent of all the information storage capacity on Earth was digital, with the remaining six percent comprised of books, magazines, video tapes, and other non-digital media forms. The study found that digital storage capacity grew 23 percent a year from 1986 to 2007, while computing power increased 58 percent a year during the same period. Hilbert notes that people generate 276 exabytes of digital data every eight weeks, but much of that information is not stored long term.

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