Chaos, Cacophony, and the New Data Order in the Coming Decade

The total volume of data transmitted over the US mobile phone network in 2007 amounted to 86 petabytes. Today, the same volume is transferred in less than a day. So what will things be like ten years from now? We might only need ten minutes to transfer this amount of data, which would correspond to a 52,000-fold acceleration. It is safe to assume that the global increase in data transmission volumes will be in the same ballpark. At Dell Technologies, we refer to the next ten years as the “next data decade” and have aligned our 2030 goals accordingly.

Dell has always set itself ambitious and long-term goals. Nearly ten years ago, for instance, we announced our 2020 Legacy of Good” plan, based on the idea that technology should be the driving force behind human progress. We adopted this key idea in the plan for the coming decade, which will, of course,lead us to a completely different world from the one we know today. We will generate vastly more data, because everything will be connected to everything else. However, data has no intrinsic value; we need to bring it to life to make it usable in areas such as industrial automation, which will continue to advance; in autonomous cars, which will shape the urban landscape by communicating with other vehicles, traffic lights and the power grid; in healthcare, which must be drastically improved worldwide; in smart homes, smart cities, smart government, in our personal well-being, and basically in every conceivable sphere of life.

Not just big data (the term should actually be renamed incredibly enormous data in the new decade), but also thousands, millions, or perhaps even more fragmented databases and storage spaces will shape everyday life. This isolated data is nothing but chaos and noise until it interfaces with the rest of the world. The integration of all these data silos into countless clouds and on-premises systems is the Herculean task that companies and the IT industry are facing. Only when we solve the question of data integration will new technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning blossom and play a truly fundamental role in our future society. After all, these systems need to make a vast number of sometimes vital decisions based on this data jumble in real time.

However, this will only be possible if data security is also ensured. Therefore, data integrity and encryption will play an equally important role in the coming years. There are formidable factors to consider, among them the development of the quantum computer, which will completely revolutionize the way we do IT while also providing cyber attackers with a tool to crack almost any asymmetric encryption in mere seconds. We must therefore work to develop effective quantum-safe methods. Fortunately, the US organization NIST is already developing new standards for post-quantum cryptography.

And there are more challenges in store for us. For example, we cannot simply allow AI, which is being made more powerful by the day, to act like “black boxes.” We must ensure that decisions remain comprehensible and algorithms transparent, if necessary based on legal standards. This is no small feat in today’s globalized world. We must also ensure that the human being remains the key focus of technological advancement. In other words, we need to uphold ethics and human values in a fully digitized society – digital humanism if you will. And we must increasingly protect our environment.

All of this is part of our Next Data Decade plan, in which we will focus on product sustainability above all. Our concept here is what we call one-to-one recycling: for every product a customer purchases, we will fully recycle or repurpose a similar product. Second, we will promote inclusion with the goal of having 50 percent of our global workforce made up of women by 2030. Third, we strive to improve lives on a broad scale based on technology, that is, for billions of people. Fourth, we want to do so while upholding ethics and data privacy.

Do we know whether we will achieve these goals? Do we have any idea how information technology, let alone our society, will evolve over the next decade? Of course not. Can we anticipate stumbling blocks? Certainly. Will we be able to handle big data, AI, data security, and technological innovation over the next ten years as envisioned today? Even though the future may be uncertain, we are optimistic and will do everything in our power to advance human progress by leveraging our technology, our knowledge, and our compassion. This new decade is certain to be an exciting one!