What is the difference between Data, Information and Knowledge? Data, information and knowledge are often referred to and used to represent the same thing. However, each term has its own meaning. By defining what data, information and knowledge mean individually, a greater understanding can be reached. It is also important to look at how they interact with each other. Knowledge, by definition, is the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. It is the acquisition of information through education or experience. In simple terms, knowledge is ‘what we know’. It is the information that we have retained in our brain. For example, in everyday life it could be how we like to eat our cereal or the fastest way home after work; or in the world of business, it could be knowledge of market and when and where products sell best. A toy company for example, know that in the run up to Christmas they will sell more toys than any other time of the year.
This knowledge that the company will have attained from sales figures, in this case is the data, compared with other sales figures from other times time of the year. The brain is the only place that knowledge can be stored. Knowledge is put together in the brain as it links together data and information. At present, there is no form of technology that can retain knowledge as technology cannot link information and data. Knowledge is personal. Moreover, another example would be a company selling products like garden furniture and barbecues. The company would have the information that their products sell best in warmer weather but only the management or personal would be fit to make the decision when the weather is warm and they should promote their products further. This is the true power of knowledge as it helps companies produce goods and services, solve problems, and exploit opportunities.
The concept of knowledge as power is based on the idea that management and employees that possess information which is essential in helping their organization goals reach its goal have all the power. People in positions of controlling the information about current operations, are able to develop information about alternatives, or acquire knowledge about future events and plans, have enormous power to influence others. Data is facts and statistics that are collected together for reference or analysis. Data is normally in a quantities state, meaning data is a number, symbol or character. Data can also be an image or a sound. Data is always correct, can never be wrong. However, data is useless in this form and needs to be translated into a form that can be understood, like knowledge or information.
Data is the first step in retaining useful information. Data is entered into a system, stored in the system, and processed by the system. Through information processing, people, and computers summarize and/or transform data to make it meaningful and to turn it into information. For example, a business annually figure are no use until they are processed, understood and compared to extract all important information. Information is defined as fact provided or learned about someone or something. Information is a combination of attained data plus conceptual commitments and interpretations. Therefore unlike data, it is possible that information can be wrong or inaccurate. Information in terms of knowledge is stored and understood beyond our brain. The information we call knowledge is information that has been subjected to, and passed tests of validation. An example of information is company records and reports.
Annual reports that are drawn up from yearly figures (or data) and retained for future reference and knowledge contain information. On a more personal level, an example of information is the final cost of items you are purchasing at the store. The final price is based on raw data that is transformed, or should we say summarized, by the cash register into a numerical total. The total tells you how much money you owe for your purchases. The numerical total is the information derived from the data. Unlike data, information is data presented in a context that yields meaning. We create information when data is put together and a single meaning is found. In reality, information may be data in one sense and not in another. This is why it is sometimes hard to tell the difference between them. For example, the total cost of my shopping, which was previously defined as information, may also be used as data input.
This occurs when the store manager uses her computer system to calculate total sales for the day based on all purchases made. In summary, whether something is data or information depends on how it is used and in what context. After defining each term, it is clear that they all hold their own significance. The distinctions between data, information and knowledge are not very discrete, thus the distinctions between each term may seem more like shades of gray, rather than black and white. The line between each term’s definitions can in some cases seem blurred due to the context in which the term is used. Moreover, a term that has been said to be information (for example, the daily takings for a shop) is also data when used on a larger scale (For example, the shop’s annual report figures). This is where the difficulty in defining the terms lies.
In summary, data and information deal with the past. They are based on the gathering of facts and adding context. Knowledge deals with the present. It lives within us and enables us to perform and make informed decisions. Furthermore, data, information and knowledge are all very important, but would they have is much worth without each other? The answer is ‘no’. Data in its raw form is just fact and figure that needs to be processed. Once it has transformed into information or knowledge it is much more useful. On the other hand, you cannot get information and knowledge without data. They all complement eachother.