How much money is spent on infrastructure, technology and telecommunications?

The big numbers

The world is upgrading to a better way of life all around, but how much does it cost exactly?

Concrete numbers: 6.6 gigatons

World concrete production has grown by a factor of 25 since 1950, and much of it is going into China’s burgeoning new cities. In his book Making the Modern World, author Vaclav Smil estimates that between 2011 and 2013, China used 6.6 gigatons of cement, the key ingredient in concrete.

This is more cement in three years than the 4.5 gigatons the US used in all the 20th century.

Former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, a fan of Smil’s work, notes one drawback of this boom: the cement industry, he says, now accounts for about 5 per cent of all carbon dioxide emissions. That’s due to the very high temperatures used to produce the initial cement clinker from raw oxides. This clinker is then ground down to cement powder. 

Calculating numbers: 250 quintillion

The number of transistors produced by semiconductor makers in 2014, according to technology research firm VLSI Research’s CEO, Dan Hutcheson. That’s 250 billion billion, or 250 x 1018.
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Connected numbers: A$79 billion

The contribution to Australia’s economy from digital technology in 2013-14, according to a new study for Google by Deloitte Access Economics. The Connected Continent II report defines digital technology as including cloud platforms, smart handheld devices, and social networking.

The A$79 billion is equivalent to 5.1 per cent of Australia’s GDP. In real terms, it is 50 per cent above Deloitte’s 2011 estimate.


Phone numbers: US$25 billion

The amount consumers may now be spending each year on Apple and Google Play smartphone apps, according to Andreessen Horowitz analyst Benedict Evans.
By comparison, 2014 movie box office revenue worldwide was about US$38 billion.

Evans estimates that in 2014 Apple paid at least US$10 billion to the app developers, and Google paid US$7 billion. The two companies kept the rest.

This article is from the June issue of INTHEBLACK.

Read next: Which countries are investing the most in Australia?

June 2015
June 2015

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