recommended reading

The Web Is Not Actually Getting Any More Global

JNT Visual/Shutterstock.com

“The internet is creating a global community,” a thought leader probably said recently. But take a closer look at internet traffic data, and the theory that the web is turning the world into a borderless digital utopia doesn’t hold up.

There’s no question that internet traffic in general is skyrocketing. One hundred hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute. Facebook recently announcedthat it would upgrade its data warehouse to a capacity of 300 petabytes. (One petabyte is enough to store over 1 million HD movies.)

And more of this data crosses borders than ever before. Global flows in a digital age, a report released yesterday by McKinsey Global Institute, attempts to quantify the circulation of three major types of “flows”: financial, human, and digital. Using data from TeleGeography, McKinsey estimates that the total transfer of data across borders has increased 20-fold from 2005 to 2012, from 2.2 trillion megabytes per second to over 41 trillion.

Cross-border-internet-traffic-Traffic_chartbuilder

This is a dramatic rise, no doubt, but a little context makes it clear that data flow—or the growth of that flow—is not inherently international. In fact, cross-border web traffic has barely kept up with the sum total of internet activity. The vast majority of digital transactions are still domestic.

Cross-border-vs-total-internet-traffic-Cross-border-traffic-Cisco-IP-Traffic_chartbuilder (1)

The rise of cross-border activity is simply a function of the digitization of everything. Basically, “lots more data” also means “lots more cross-border data.”

“Data underlie all other flows,” says Susan Lund, one of the report’s authors and a partner at McKinsey. Whether domestic or intercontinental, transfers of physical goods, cash, messages, services—the list goes on—are becoming rearrangements of 1s and 0s.

For the most part, global web transfers are just digital versions of transactions that were already happening. In many ways, data is still more protected than finance, the original globetrotting medium. China, for example, belongs to the WTO but is partially cut off from the global internet community. One-third of all financial flows cross a border, according to McKinsey, compared with only 17% of data flow.

> (Image via JNT Visual/Shutterstock.com)

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

    Download
  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.