A report assembled by technology research firm IDC attempted to account for all the digital content cascading through our world. The researchers assumed that an average digital file gets replicated three times and found that the world generated 161 billion gigabytes (161 exabytes) of digital information last year. According to IDC, that's equivalent to 3 million times the information in all the books ever written. The IDC numbers ballooned with the inclusion of content as it was created and as it was reproduced. If IDC tracked original data only, its result would have been 40 exabytes. Researchers James Short and Roger Bohn of the University of California, San Diego, who were not involved in the study, said that because IDC used many of its own internal market analyses, the work will be hard to replicate and confirm – not that they won't try. Bohn said it would be wise to take IDC's figures "with a certain grain of salt," but he added: "I don't think the numbers are going to turn out to be wildly off target."
IDC analyst John Gantz, noted the importance of understanding the factors behind the information explosion. IDC estimates that by 2010, about 70% of the world's digital data will be created by individuals (think YouTube). For corporations, information is inflating thanks to systems such as surveillance cameras and data-retention regulations. Perhaps most noteworthy is that the supply of data technically outstrips the supply of places to put it. "If you had a run on the bank, you'd be in trouble. If everybody stored every digital bit, there wouldn't be enough room," said Gantz. Fortunately, storage space is not actually scarce and continues to get cheaper simply because every 1 and 0 that is created is not necessarily stored.
News source: CNN