Difference between Data and Information

While working on a computer, we often come across two terms, data and information. Both the terms are used interchangeably by many people most of the time. However, they are not the same. Both of these have an important role in computing and there are significant differences between data and information.


In a nutshell, data can be referred to as an unsystematic fact or description about something, whereas information can be referred to as a systematic and filtered form of data, which is meaningful. There are many other factors that can help distinguish data and information. 

Difference between Data and Information

Before we compare data and information, let us first understand both with their brief definitions:


What is Data?

Data is a collection of one or more values. These values are nothing meaningful, but raw, unstructured facts and descriptions such as characters, numbers, or any other data type. Generally, the data has no particular purpose and significance. The data is processed appropriately to make it meaningful otherwise it has little or no meaning to human beings.

In other words, data are referred to as individual units of information. In computing, data is usually represented as bits and bytes, the basic units of information in the context of computer storage and processing. However, in the analytical process, it is denoted by variables. Moreover, the data is always interpreted by humans or machines to make it meaningful.


What is Information?

Information is a set of organized or interpreted data that has already been processed in a meaningful manner according to given requirements. It is processed, structured, or presented in the desired context to make it meaningful and useful so that human beings can read, understand and use it. 

Information is processed data that includes data with context, relevance, and purpose, which helps to ensure undetectability and reduce uncertainty. Furthermore, it involves the manipulation of raw data. It generally provides context for the data and simplifies decision-making as well as improves the reliability of the data.

Note: In a computer, the CPU is the brain where 'P' stands for processing or data processing. The fundamental purpose of a computer system is to process data into information. 

Data and Information

Data Vs Information: Key Differences

Let us list down some of the major differences between data and information:

Data is a collection of unorganized facts in the form of text, numbers, symbols, etc. On the other hand, information is a structured or organized form of those facts in context.

Data does not have a specific purpose, whereas information has a purpose that is given while interpreting the data.

Data is a collective noun and it takes a singular form when treated as a single entity but it is plural when referring to individual objects. In contrast, information is an uncountable mass noun.

Data alone is not always useful, whereas information always is, if the data is processed appropriately.

In terms of dependencies, data does not depend on information. But, information depends on data and cannot exist without data.

The historical records for worldwide temperature readings for the past 100 years represent the data. If this data is organized and analyzed to conclude that global temperatures are increasing over time, it is information.

Difference between Data and Information (www.tutorialsmate.com)

Difference Between Data and Information

Let’s discuss the differences between Data and Information side by side with the help of the following comparison chart (in a tabular form):


Data Information
Data is generally defined as 'facts and figures' that are unorganized and unrefined. The data has no specific meaning. Information is generally processed data that has meaning in context. It is an organized and refined form of data.
Data is referred to as the quantitative or qualitative variables used to generate ideas or conclusions. Information is the collection of processed data that carries news and meaning.
The word 'data' is derived from the Latin word ‘datum’, which means 'something that is given'. A word datum is a singular form of data but it is rarely used. The word 'information' is derived from the Latin word 'informatiƍ', which means 'formation or conception'. It is commonly used in the context of education or other forms of communication.
The data is independent of the information. Information is dependent on data.
The data mainly depends on the sources from where it is to be collected. Information depends on data to be significant and meaningful.
Data or raw data is not enough to make a decision. The information is sufficient to help make a decision in the respective context.
The data is usually in the form of letters, numbers, characters, etc. Information has a form of ideas or references.
Data is information but unprocessed and meaningless. Information is the processed data.
Data is represented as graphs, data trees, tables, flowcharts, etc. Information is represented as ideas, thoughts, and languages after the data is processed.
Data has no purpose unless given to. Information has meaning and serves purposes.
Data is usually measured in terms of storage units, bits, and bytes. Information is usually measured in meaningful units, such as time, quantity, etc.
Data is low-level knowledge. Information is second-level knowledge.
Data is based on records and observations and is usually stored in computer storage devices or remembered by individuals. Information is based on analysis and is more reliable than data. This allows researchers to conduct a proper analysis.
The data is not appropriate for the specific needs of the researchers. The information is meant to be suitable for specific requirements or needs as it is obtained by removing/filtering irrelevant facts and figures from the data during interpretation.
The data obtained by researchers may or may not be useful based on analytical inferences. Information is useful and adds value because it is easily readable or understandable for researchers.
The total number of visitors to any website is a simple example of data. Counting the number of visitors from different countries and how they are increasing and decreasing over a specific period is a valuable piece of information.


What is the main difference between Data and Information?

The fundamental difference between data and information is that data is unstructured or unorganized information whereas information is processed data. In the field of computers, data is an input that is used to generate output, i.e., information.

Data refers to the facts and details from which information is obtained. The data is not individually helpful unless extracted or interpreted. It's just some meaningless characters, numbers, symbols, etc. Furthermore, information has some meaning and can be useful to humans in some important ways, such as decision making, forecasting, etc.

Understanding Data and Information with an Example

A computer can be referred to as a typical example of information. It uses various programming scripts, formulae, functions, and software tools to transform raw data into meaningful information.
Let us now understand this in a practical way by assembling raw data into information:

Example of Data

The following box represents some raw data where some random characters, numbers, and words are separated by commas.

1600, CA, Google, HQ, 94043, USA, Mountain, Parkway, Amphitheatre, View, 6502530000
Scroll ⇀

This is an example of data and it has no meaning.


Example of Information

The following box represents the information where the raw data has been organized, interpreted, and formatted in a predefined parameter approach.

Google HQ
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043, USA
(650) 253-0000
Scroll ⇀

This is an example of information because the meaning of the data is quite clear here. It's easy for humans to interpret that it just creates a structure of contact information for Google Headquarters.

Difference between Data and Information - Example

Even though data usually comes before information, it is not easy to define which one is more useful. For instance, if the data is processed in a biased manner or incorrectly, the information obtained will not be useful. However, the data will still be useful because we can process it again in an appropriate way and get the desired information.

Summary

The above explanation separates data from information. According to this, we can conclude that data is an unorganized description of raw facts or values from which information can be extracted/ interpreted in an organized and meaningful manner.


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