How Much Data Do We Create?

Data Servers

Short answer: a lot.

Long answer: The world’s data GDP, according to research firm IDC, was an estimated 2.8 billion terabytes last year. If you stored the entire world’s yearly data output on 1 inch thick 4 TB hard drives, and stacked them on top of one another, you’d have a stack that reached 11,408 miles high. By the 88 million terabyte mark you’d already be in outer space.

Today, we create more data daily than we created in all of 2003. So where’s it coming from?

People Can Easily Create Data Nowadays

Today, technology is benchmarked by its simplicity and mobility. In many ways it exceeds the predictions made by even the most imaginative science fiction over the past few decades. Our mobile devices and the free services offered by the most popular websites are encouraging us to create more and more content. We upload 350 million photos to Facebook, write 58 million tweets, and upload over 16 and a half years worth of videos to YouTube every day. We’re adding to the global database at an obsessive rate. As the use of these networks and websites grows exponentially, so does the amount of data we create.

More People than Ever are Creating Data

Consider the number of people in just the past few years that have been lifted out of poverty and can afford the gadgets we love. Countries like China, India, and Brazil have seen substantial growth in consumer technology spending, and people in those countries are as hooked on content creation as the rest of the world is. In the last five years the number of Chinese internet users has almost quadrupled to about 591 million, and this year’s projected Chinese smartphone purchases of 240 million will be double the amount in the US. With globalization continuing the shape the world and bring higher standards of living to every corner of the planet, the pool of people creating data is only going to get bigger.

Machines do it For Us

Technology has reached a point where automated applications can analyze and create data in minutes what before would take months, or even years, for us to do a few short years ago. Machines take can take a mind-boggling amount of data (common associated with the buzz word “Big Data”), and use those data sets to create another mind-boggling amount of data. For example, the Large Hadron Collider going at full blast creates 1,000 terabytes of data every second. For the time being humans still create the majority of the data in the world, but those days are short lived as more complex data analysis systems are developed to handle bigger data sets.