Digital universe continues to expand

Digital universe continues to expand

1.8 zettabytes by 2011

The amount of digital information being generated about people has surpassed the amount they create themselves, according to IDC.

A report from the analyst firm produced for storage firm EMC measured the vast amounts and diverse types of digital information created and copied in the world today.

The 'digital universe' spanned 281 exabytes in 2007, and is projected to be nearly 1.8 zettabytes by 2011, equating to a tenfold increase over five years.

EMC said that the digital universe is bigger and growing more rapidly than original estimates as a result of accelerated growth in digital cameras and TVs as well as a better understanding of information replication trends.

The digital universe in 2007 was equal to almost 45 gigabytes of digital information for every person on Earth.

This was driven primarily by the increase in internet access in emerging countries, sensor-based applications, data centres supporting 'cloud computing' and social networks.

The report also addressed how individuals actively participate in contributing to the digital universe via internet access, email, cell phones, digital cameras and credit card transactions.

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

"The other half is what we call the 'digital shadow', information about you, including names in financial records, mailing lists, web surfing histories or images taken 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."

IDC stressed that IT organisations that gather personal information have a tremendous responsibility, in many cases mandated by law, for the security, privacy, reliability and legal compliance of this information.

"Society is already feeling the early effects of the world's digital information explosion," said Joe Tucci, chairman, president and chief executive at EMC.

"Organisations need to plan for the limitless opportunities to use information in new ways and for the challenges of information governance.

"As people's digital footprints continue growing, so too will the responsibility of organisations for 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."

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 create.

The report also found that the information explosion is predominately visual with images, camcorder clips, digital TV signals and surveillance streams making up the bulk of the raw data volume.

This is highlighted by the fact that the number of digital cameras and cameraphones in the world surpassed one billion in 2007.

Fewer than 10 per cent of all still images are captured on film, while shipments of networked digital surveillance cameras double every year.