America's Information Boom

November 3, 1978

Report Outline
Data Influx and Management
Advances in Data Gathering
Future of Communications
Special Focus

Data Influx and Management

Rising Demand for Information Services

How many electric toothbrushes were sold in the United States last year? What is the current and projected U.S. pet population? How many missiles do the Russians have in Eastern Europe? These questions are typical of the inquiries fueling America's latest high-growth enterprise — the information industry.

Demand for information in the United States is increasing at the rate of 30 percent per year, according to one estimate. That upsurge has been met in part by the publishing trade, which produced over 42,000 books in 1977. Also meeting the challenge are the proliferating number of “information-on-demand” companies that provide their clients with essential, often difficult to obtain, facts and figures. “Without the complex system of indexes, data bases, microforms, directories and other information tools the industry uses, our society would be paralyzed and unable to locate the goods and services it needs,” Paul Zurkowski, president of the Information Industry Association, said recently.

In little over a decade, the capabilities of most information-supply companies have expanded considerably. In 1966, according to Free Enterprise magazine, there were in this country only 18 computer-assisted data banks whose stores of information could be retrieved and displayed on video terminals or printouts. These 18 data bases, maintained by government agencies and private industries, contained approximately 20,000 items of information. By 1976, the latest year for which statistics are available, there were 360 such data banks, with more than 71 million stored entries.

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