Digital content doubles every 18 months

ORLANDO, FLORIDA – If you feel you’re drowning in a sea of data, you’re right. The world’s total store of digital data now amounts to  487 billion gigabytes, or the equivalent of 19 billion fully-loaded Blu-ray DVDs, thanks to social networking, internet -enabled mobile phones and government surveillance.

According to IDC, this figure is expected to double in size every 18 months. John Gantz, Chief Research Officer for IDC, explained, “Contrary to popular belief, as the economy deteriorated in late 2008, the pace of digital information created and transmitted over the Internet, phone networks, and airwaves actually increased.”

This is presumably good news for EMC, the storage specialist that sponsored the study. IDC found that the amount of digital information created in 2008 grew 3% faster than its prior projection. In 2012, five times as much digital information will be created as in 2008.

The authors have had some fun working out equivalents. Apparently, the world sum of digital data equates to 237 billion fully-loaded Amazon Kindle readers or 30 billion Apple iPod Touches. Alternatively, we could think of it as three quadrillion Twitter feeds – more than the most self-obsessed teenager could produce in, oh, a week.

Over the next four years, IDC expects 600 million more people to become internet users, with the number of mobile users set to treble. Meanwhile, non-traditional IT devices such as wireless meters, automobile navigation systems, industrial machines, RFID readers, and intelligent sensor controllers, will grow by a factor of 3.6. Email, messaging, social networks and the like will grow eight-fold.

By 2012, 850 million people will buy and sell products and services on the internet and twice as much internet commerce will take place as in 2008. By 2012, internet commerce will be a $13 trillion industry, mostly involving sensitive business-to-business commerce, says IDC.

More than 30% of information created today is security-intensive, requiring high standards of protection. That number will grow to roughly 45% by the end of 2012. The financial collapse will lead to more regulation and government oversight, say the authors, driving more mandated record-keeping compliance, and hence more digital information.