The World’s Technological Capacity to Store, Communicate, and Compute Information

TitleThe World’s Technological Capacity to Store, Communicate, and Compute Information
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsHilbert, M., & López P.
Pagination60 - 65
Date Published2011/04/01/
ISBN Number0036-8075, 1095-9203

We estimated the world’s technological capacity to store, communicate, and compute information, tracking 60 analog and digital technologies during the period from 1986 to 2007. In 2007, humankind was able to store 2.9 × 1020 optimally compressed bytes, communicate almost 2 × 1021 bytes, and carry out 6.4 × 1018 instructions per second on general-purpose computers. General-purpose computing capacity grew at an annual rate of 58%. The world’s capacity for bidirectional telecommunication grew at 28% per year, closely followed by the increase in globally stored information (23%). Humankind’s capacity for unidirectional information diffusion through broadcasting channels has experienced comparatively modest annual growth (6%). Telecommunication has been dominated by digital technologies since 1990 (99.9% in digital format in 2007), and the majority of our technological memory has been in digital format since the early 2000s (94% digital in 2007).

Short TitleScience

Gap Area Study Type:

High-level Gap Areas:

Measurement Gap Areas:

Metrics Gap Areas:

Investigated amounts of total information (not unique) stored, communicated, and computed from 1986 to 2007
Used worldwide estimates in 1,120 sources for data in 60 categories (analog and digital)