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Network World - Cell phones and social media tools help topple Middle Eastern regimes. Telemedicine lets surgeons reach across time and space. Smart grids let power companies reduce fuel consumption and lower pollution. Networking has changed the world.
Today there are 5 billion devices connected to the Internet worldwide and 1 billion mobile workers. More than 500 million people log onto Facebook every day and collectively spend 700 billion minutes per month in this social sphere. This year, worldwide Internet traffic will hit 28 billion gigabytes per month and continue to grow at a compound annual rate of 34%.
Network connectivity is influencing the evolution of human beings, posits Cisco Chief Futurist Dave Evans. "A few hundred years ago, if we wanted to communicate or share knowledge, it might have taken weeks or months. Now we can share information with millions or billions of people in seconds, anywhere on the planet. Because of that, people are learning and communicating and evolving at exponential rates."
The World Wide Web has evolved to become the social web, Evans says. "It's become a very human-facing tool. We're interconnecting with one another, we're sharing life experiences, we're offering education to millions of people who never had access to those resources."
Some 2 billion people use the Web today. More than a billion Tweets are posted each week. Every minute, 35 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube.
In Egypt, youth-led protests were accelerated by social media and resulted in the ousting of former President Hosni Mubarak. When the massive earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan in March, on-the-ground witnesses posted photos and videos online within minutes.
Just a few decades ago, we did not have such quick access to the rich mix -- video, media and photos -- that accompanies world events today, Evans says.
In our everyday lives, networks have changed long established routines. We shop online and consult peer reviews before pulling the trigger on purchases.
Education is increasingly conducted online. Nearly 30% of all college and university students now take at least one course online, according to Sloan Consortium.
Work is an activity, not a destination. As many as 30 million people currently work from home at least one day a week, according to Telework Research Network, and the home office market will add nearly 2 million home-based businesses and more than three million corporate home office households between 2011 and 2015, forecasts IDC.
Entertainment is a few clicks away - and gobs of it. It would take more than two years to watch the amount of video that will cross global IP networks every second in 2014, estimates Cisco. It would take 72 million years to watch the amount of video that will cross global IP networks during calendar year 2014.
Being connected is so ingrained in our daily lives that even in sleep, many people want to be within an arm's reach of their gadgets. Sixty-five percent of American adults sleep with their cell phones on or right next to their beds, according to Pew Internet & American Life Project. Among young adults ages 18 to 29, that number rises to 90%.