So, what is data?


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So, what is data?

A smartphone with lots of colourful app icons

What's coming up?

In this activity, you'll learn what data is and how your internet provider keeps count of how much data you use.

You'll also learn how data on a home internet plan is counted in a slightly different way to data on a mobile data plan.

Start activity
A graphic of all the things you can do on the internet, including watching movies, reading and listening to music.

The internet

The internet is a service that can give you lots of different kinds of content.

You can read text and emails, share photos, listen to music, watch TV shows, movies and more. But how does all of this content get from the internet to your device?

Data delivery

Photos, text, videos and other content is transferred to your phone, tablet, laptop, desktop computer or other device in the form of data.

The data is sent over an internet connection, such as your home internet connection and Wi-Fi network, or the mobile data network your mobile phone uses.

A graphic of three different devices receiving information from the internet
A smartphone screen displaying how much data has already been used on a data plan

Keeping count of data

Because it's hard to measure internet usage by the number of photos you've seen, pages you've read or movies you've watched, internet providers measure data instead.

Your internet provider keeps a count of how much data you use.

How is data measured?

We measure water in litres, and we measure power in watts. The term we use to measure data is gigabytes.

The word gigabytes is often abbreviated to GB when writing, to make it easier.

We pronounce gigabytes like this: gig – ah – bites

A diagram showing that some home internet plans give 1,000GB of data but some mobile internet plans only give 15GB of data
A diagram showing all devices in a  home are included in a home internet plan

How home data is measured

On a home internet connection, data is measured and charged per household. Some home internet plans have a set data limit, while others are unlimited. However, even unlimited plans have rules against excessive data usage.

If a friend comes over and connects their device to your home internet, they will be using your data.

On a home internet connection, it's tricky to figure out how much data any particular device has used. All the data that gets used is bundled together.

How mobile data is measured

Data usage on a mobile phone is measured and charged per device.

On a mobile device, it's easy to see how much data that device has used. Your provider will keep track of the data used by the device, but most mobile phones and some tablets also have a special section in their settings that gives lots of information on data usage.

A diagram showing different levels of data on different mobile plans
A icon of a padlock

eSafety Tip

You'll read more about this in the coming activities, but for now, it's good to know that your mobile phone company and your mobile phone settings may track data usage a little differently.

So as a rule, when you want to know how much data you have used, it's best to trust the information you get on data usage from your mobile phone company, as they are the ones who are charging you.

Well done!

You've reached the end of the What is data? activity. You have learned that content from the internet is measured as data and delivered to your device via a home or mobile internet network.

Next up, you'll learn about how data is sold in plans, a bit like a subscription, in the activity How do I buy data?

A granddaughter and grandmother enjoying time together with their tablet