Global digital information (the digital universe) amounted to 281 billion gigabytes in 2007, or almost 45 GB of digital information for every person on earth, according to EMC-sponsored research by analyst firm IDC US.
The figure is 10 percent more than the previous estimate, and is expected to hit 1.8 zettabytes in 2011.
In graphical terms, IDC describes the digital universe to be the equivalent of over 17 billion eight GB iPhones. IDC notes that the digital universe has a compound annual growth rate of about 60 percent, thanks to a jump in worldwide shipments of digital cameras and televisions, as well as better understanding of information replication trends.
Increasing internet access in developing nations, sensor-based applications and extensive online social networks have also contributed to the growth of digital information worldwide.
"For the first time, your digital shadow is larger than the digital information you actively create about yourself, such as taking pictures, sending e-mails, or making digital voice calls" says John Gantz, IDC's chief research officer and senior vice president.
Gantz explains that the digital shadow refers to information about a person, including names in financial records and mailing lists, web surfing histories or images of the individual taken by security cameras in public places.
IDC notes that to deal with the digital explosion, development of organization-wide policies to ensure information security and retention, as well as data access, is essential.
The IDC study also reveals that enterprise share of the digital universe is skewed by industry, with little relationship to GDP or IT spending. For example, the finance industry accounts for almost 20 percent of global IT spending, but only six percent of the digital universe.
According to Ron Goh, president for EMC South Asia, an EMC survey shows that while storage is one of the fastest growing IT segments, 50 percent of companies worldwide lack a formal storage management group.
"EMC seeks to address this issue through the EMC Academic Alliance of over 170 colleges and universities across nine countries to develop a critical pool of skilled storage professionals to meet the industry's needs," Goh says.