We live in a digital world. Eighty three per cent of the UK population is online and the demand for virtual services is growing at an ever-quickening pace. So when the question “Where is our data?” was posed at a New Statesman-hosted round table earlier in the summer, there was both a simple answer to the question and some complexities to untangle.
The simple answer is that most of our data is housed in data centres. To proponents, including former cabinet minister Steven Norris (see interview on page 28), data centres are the factories of the digital age. This supplement acts in part as a beginner’s guide: the schematic overleaf, explains how they work while the jargon buster on page 30 provides some essential definitions.
The complexity surrounds security, privacy, energy supply, power consumption and a looming skills shortage – and these themes are addressed across the following pages. Despite the centrality of data centres to much of the nation’s cultural, social and economic activity, awareness remains limited. Government remains confused, says Norris. This supplement is a contribution to the demystification process.
2 September 2013