The Invisible Infrastructure

Data: It’s amorphous, ubiquitous, and apparently very big. But how big is it, exactly – and how can we make sense of its magnitude? To find out, we decided to model the amount of data the U.S. economy stores, in gigabytes (GB), by sector. As you’ll see, it’s mind-bogglingly big – and, as it turns out, it’s beautiful too.

Size of all selected sectors:
Explore Selected Sectors
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Explore the data insights behind the 14 major sectors of the U.S. economy. Select sector names to show and compare data sets. Click or tap any rotating cube to learn more about each industry’s data usage. Select the year at the top to see how the data changes over time, and zoom in for a closer look inside the digital world.

Methodology: To estimate how many GB of data the U.S. economy stores, we divided the major sectors’ estimated spend (USD) on disk storage by the estimated global price per GB (USD) from 2013-18, the years for which both data sets were available.

Sources: Estimated spend on disk storage by the U.S. economy from 2013—18 is derived from International Data Corporation’s Worldwide and U.S. Disk Storage Forecast by Vertical Market and Company Size: 2Q14; Estimated price per GB of disk storage from 2013—18 is derived from IDC’s Worldwide Enterprise Storage Systems 2014—2019 Forecast Update; U.S. industry verticals and definitions are taken from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 North American Industry Classification System