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Data: how did we get here?

Ivan Mariblanca Flinch, founder and CEO of Canopé, explains why we are in a situation of infobesity and how it is linked to our data consumption.

In 1969, a man went to the moon with only 70 Kb of data, about the size of an average email. Today, a user consumes about 4000 GB of data per year, which is 57 million times the amount of data to go to the moon.

This is because of our digital habits. In 2021 in a single minute, 500 hours of videos were posted on YouTube, 69 million messages were sent through WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, 695,000 stories were shared on Instagram and 197 million emails were sent. And a lifetime would not be enough tò watch the videos added daily on YouTube.

Over the past decade, internet traffic has doubled every 18 months. To what extent does the consumption of all this digital data promote the development of our society and impact the climate?

We would be wrong to think that we are replacing our equipment because it is becoming slow. It's the software that's getting too heavy.

Infobesity is characterized by excess content, layout, and lines of code on a website or in a digital service or product. It is digital data used for aesthetic rather than functional purposes. Between 1995 and 2015, the average weight of web pages increased 115 times. Between 2010 and 2018, the weight of transported data quadrupled from 0.5 to 2 billion terabytes per year. And the number of servers holding that data nearly doubled, from 35 million to 61 million. Infobesity is also reflected in the development of new enterprise applications. Twenty-five percent of the applications and software companies build or buy are never used, and companies allocate 5.8% of their budgets to underused applications. This represents a waste of 16.5 billion francs for European companies. Finally, software infobesity is also explained by the uncontrolled increase in the number of lines of code. As an example, the Mac OS X Tiger version has 82 million lines of code, and Microsoft Office 2013 has 42 million. That's several times the number of lines of code to fly a Boeing commercial airplane. With each update to these software programs, additional lines of code are added to previous versions. We would be wrong to think that we are replacing our equipment because it is becoming slow. It is the software that becomes too heavy. It's like driving a car with four people in it; as you go along you get heavier and heavier until you're overloaded. The car will have a harder time running, not because of a loss of power, but because of the extra weight. Ditto for the software. Ditto for the planet.

Text originally published on Arc Info