The Gartner Glossary offers this definition: “Digitization is the process of changing from analog to digital form, also known as digital enablement. Said another way, digitization takes an analog process and changes it to a digital form without any different-in-kind changes to the process itself.”
It is worth noting that Gartner has been consistent in this definition over the years. That’s because digitization has been with us for a long time. “A Very Short History of Digitization” traces the origins of digitization all the way back to the development of binary arithmetic by Gottfried Leibniz in 1679.
Digitization took off with twentieth-century computing and its requirements for data storage, processing, and transfer. This shift from mechanical and analog electronic technology to digital technology is the driving force of the Digital Revolution, also known as the Third Industrial Revolution. To understand how pervasively digitization has already permeated our lives, consider this fact: in 1986, 99.2% of the world’s storage capacity was analog; however by 2007, 94% of the world’s information storage capacity had shifted to digital. By no small coincidence, the figure from Google Analytics shows a distinct drop in Internet searches for information on digitization by 2007.
Does that mean we are almost done with digitization? Not hardly. A recent Tech Tip from the New York Times for World Backup Day recommends digitization as a way to safeguard your most important papers, photos, and documents. As illustrated by banking with ATMs, telecommunications with mobile phones, grocery stores with bar code scanners, music and entertainment with CDs, MP3s, and DVDs, digitization has become synonymous with the convenience and reliability of modern life.