Information overload

In 2004 it was estimated that there were around 43,500 academic journals – a number that has probably risen since. If each of these journals were to publish 3 times a year, and each of these issues contain six papers (these are estimated averages, but reasonable ones), then 783,000 academic papers would be being published – every year.

Up until 1982 the UK had three terrestrial television channels: BBC1, BBC2 and ITV. In that year, Channel 4 began broadcasting, to be followed a few years later by Channel 5.

A satellite dish (image from TV now broadcasts 485 TV channels (a number which does not include HDTV, timeshifted or regional variations). It also carries over 80 audio channels.

It is impossible to give accurate numbers for these kinds of things, but it has been estimated that in world history, over 65 million book titles have been published. The largest library in the world, Washington DC’s library of congress, reports that it carries over 20 million different titles plus 11 million other published works that are not strictly books (like pamphlets, sheet music, technical reports and so on).

In 2009, the US spent £16.6million on printed books, a figure that has stayed relatively constant throughout the first decade of the 21st century, despite the growth of the Internet.

And on that subject: Google announced in 2008 that it had passed the 1 trillion mark of separate URLs (web site addresses) indexed. That is about 140 for every person on the planet. These are arranged into about 80 million separate web sites.

The number of mobile phones in the world is estimated at 4.1 billion. Several countries, including the UK, Germany, Russia, Taiwan, Ukraine, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, have more mobile phones than they have people. (Perhaps surprisingly, the USA does not, with about 89 phones per 100 people.)

Digital divides

A rural area in Scotland, with its single telephone link to the rest of the world (image from, the UK communications regulatory body, reported in 2009 that rural areas of the UK (the picture is of Scotland) often had lower broadband speeds than the rest of the country, with Wales having the lowest rates. However, this is not just a rural/urban divide: some city dwellers struggle to get broadband because their exchange is out of date, or lacks capacity.

Wikipedia’s home page indicates there are around 3.25 million Wikipedia pages in English. The second most popular language is German, with just over a million, then French, with just less than this figure. In contrast, some languages of EU members, like Greek and Bulgarian, are used in fewer than 100,000 articles.

The Internet World Statistics site reports that, despite impressive recent growth, only 8.7% of Africans have access to the Internet, compared to 53% of Europeans and 76% of North Americans. Within the EU, rates vary from 89% in Sweden to 30% in Cyprus. In countries such as Tajikistan and Laos, fewer than 1% of the population have access to the Internet.

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