This Technical Note was written by Martin Hilbert. Funding for this paper was generously provided by the World Bank. Data-Pop Alliance is currently developing this note as one of the three inputs for the World Bank’s 2016 World Development Report: “Digital Dividends” (forthcoming).
This paper investigates how the world’s Big Data capacity can be understood in terms of the world’s storage capacity, and in the telecommunication capacity to access this storage (‘the cloud’). There has been much discussion in the last few years surrounding the Big Data revolution and the capacities to store, access, move, and communicate this data. In order to derive a more comprehensive answer to the question, “What is the world’s big data capacity?”, this paper follows the methodology of what has become the standard reference in estimating the world’s technological information capacity – and it shows that the world’s technological capacity to store information has increased with a compound annual growth rate of 31% during the three decades between 1986 and 2014 (from 2.6 exabytes to 4.6 zettabytes), while the world’s installed telecommunication capacity has grown with a compound annual growth rate of 35 % during the same period (from 7.5 petabites to 25 exabits).