The Internet has paved the way for the seamless accumulation and sharing of data, but preservation efforts can’t keep up with fast-paced technological advancements.
Digital content fragility context
As modern society continues to acquire knowledge in all areas of our civilization, scholars are concerned that we might not have the capacity to keep up with the knowledge base and store online information safely. Some of the challenges include the gradual breakdown of hardware, software and code language used in cloud-based storage systems, and the unreliability of servers in general.
Another difficulty is the lack of established protocols (2021) on how to properly index and document existing databases, including selecting which data to back-up in the first place. Furthermore, unlike physical storage of information such as books, digital files do not disintegrate over time. However, all it takes is a corrupt file or an unstable connection for digital content to be wiped out in an instant.
Libraries and repositories are looking into possible ways to streamline efforts for digital data preservation. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), for example, is urging governments and private sectors to work together to build reliable digital content back-ups. This is especially essential to maintaining the credibility of data and resolving potential legal issues such as copyright infringements.
Another area to watch out for is cybersecurity risks, where cloud-based systems could potentially be vulnerable to ransomware and hacking attacks. Digital infrastructures have to be constantly upgraded to ensure the integrity of the data.
Wider implications of digital content fragility
Some groups that might be affected by digital content fragility include:
- Governments, as they may need to heavily invest in cloud systems, including hiring more IT professionals, to ensure public data is secured to ensure the continuity of public services.
- Libraries, particularly those that maintain ancient manuscripts and artifacts, as they might have to look into technologies that would allow them to have an online backup
- Cybersecurity providers, as they might need to constantly upgrade their products against increasingly complex hacking attacks.
- Banks and other information-sensitive organizations that need to ensure data accuracy and recoverability in the face of future cyberattacks or natural disasters.
Questions to comment on
- Do you think it’s important to keep an online repository of our civilization’s essential information? Why or why not?
- How do you ensure that your personal digital content is preserved?