10 Main Differences Between Data and Information

Data and Information are interrelated, as the data is the basic building block for the latter. But, there are various key points that differ from each other.

Data is something that you can consider as a low level of knowledge. In this, you have some scattered, uncategorized, unorganized entities that do not really mean anything. Whereas Information is the second level of knowledge where you wire up the data and assign it some context. So, the data becomes meaningful.

Most people are aware of the data and information, but still, there is some ambiguity in people about what is the difference between the data and information.

In this article, I am going to provide a brief explanation of what data and information are. Also, you’ll get to know the key difference between the two.

So, before differentiating the two on the basis of several factors, let me first throw some light on what data and information are.

What is data?

A magnifying glass over a spreadsheet of data.

The term data was originated around the 1600s that comes from a singular Latin word datum, which means “something given”.

The dictionary meaning of the word data is, “Facts and statistics collected together for reference or analysis”.

And according to the philosophy data means, “Things known or assumed as facts, making the basis of reasoning or calculation”. 

*Reference: According to the Oxford dictionary

And generally, we say, “Data is a collection of raw facts and figures that we need to process to extract meaning or information”.

  • As per the definition, data is something that we have as raw entities. These entities can be any number (0 to 9), characters (A to Z, a to z), text, words, statements, or even special characters (*, /, @, #, etc…).
  • Furthermore, pictures, sound, or videos that are contextless, means little or nothing to a human being and lies in the category of data. Example: Will Turner, 48, link down, blue, junior, ocean, street
  • Data is nothing unless it is processed or is aligned in some context. The data when structured and organized (when the data is processed in some manner) results in Information.

As for the above example, the data is raw and there is no meaning to it but if we organize this data:

  • Will tuner
    H.no- 48, blue ocean
    link down street

Now, this looks like an Address of the person named Will Turner. Whereas, in the above example it is impossible to make out the meaning of the words.

What Is Information?

  • The term information was originated around the 1300s i.e; before the term data. The information word comes from a singular old English word informare, which refers to “the act of informing”.
  • The dictionary meaning of the word information is, “knowledge gained through study, communication, research, instruction, etc.”.
  • In terms of computers, the term information means, “important or useful facts obtained as output from a computer by means of processing input data with a program”.

*Reference: According to the dictionary

  • Apart from these, generally, we consider information as, “a processed data that is organized, structured or presented in a given context so that the data deliver some logical meaning that may be further utilized in decision making”.
  • The information that you get after the processing of data is abstract and free from any sort of unnecessary details. This information is precise and conveys a straightforward meaning to the output that you get from the processing of the raw and meaningless data.
  • The information you get from the processing of data is utilized for some further judgment.

The information has four main uses that are as following:

1. Planning

To plan accurately, a business must know the resources it has. Example: People, Properties, clients, customers, dealers, Types of machinery, Accounts, etc.

With all the above information, it becomes easier for the business to look into the market and plan strategies to overtake the actions of the competitors.

At the planning stage, the information is the key ingredient in business-level decision making.

2. Recording

Recording of each transaction and event is a must for a business. It is important to record the information like the expenses and income as per the law for the management of the taxes. A business also keeps the record of marketing and the sales/purchases of products so that they can keep track of customers behavior about the purchase of products.

If we say in other contexts like school and universities keep track of the number of admissions per year and the number of students that pass out per year to make further decisions.

3. Analysis

You can utilize this information for analysis purposes. The analysis includes the sales, costs, and profits, to name a few.

The analysis gives a broad figure of the overall profit or loss of the organization. Based on this analysis, the business can make decisions that will optimize the costs and profits in the best way.

4. Controlling

Once a business has all the record data and the overall analysis, then it will be easier for it to control and enhance the resources.

Hence, the information helps in identifying whether things are going better or worse than the expectations.

Accordingly,  the business can control the expenses and manage resources to attain what is in the expectation.

The information that is in the use of decision making purpose are of three types:

  1. Strategic information:  This information helps in planning the objectives of an organization. It also helps to measure the achievements of the objectives.
  2. Tactical Information:  This information decides how to employ the resources to attain maximum productivity.
  3. Operational Information: This information make sure that the tasks and operations are carrying out according to the strategy. This includes that the tasks are completing on time and things are going in a proper manner.

Now, you have an understanding of data and information. Let me explain the ten key difference points between both with some real-life examples.

Difference between Data and Information

1. Significance

The very first key difference between the data and information depends on the significance. Information is significant. Whereas, the data is not significant.

It means that stand-alone data is of no use. There is no meaning that can be derived from raw data and it cannot be utilized anywhere.

On the other hand, Information is significant as it has some context and provides some meaning. The information allows taking some action on behalf of it.

With meaningful data i.e Information, an organization or a business entity can make a decision.

For example, the costs and selling statistics of a product of an E-commerce website when presented in the raw tabular form is not significant. But, when this data is represented within the context of the target customer and the behavior of the customer of purchasing or not purchasing the product. Then these stats become significant as a decision can be taken out on this information.

2. Representation

You can visualize data in a structured form such as tabular data, data tree, data graph, etc…

In the tabular format, there is a table with different rows and columns and each column or row represents a data entity.

The data tree format stimulates a hierarchical tree structure with a root node and a number of child nodes.

A data graph is a graphical representation of the data as a bar chart, line chart, or pie chart. The figure below depicts the data graph.

A visual representation of the depth of data.

Now, coming to the point of information. Information is seen as Language, ideas, and thoughts that are based on the data.

3. Form

The data is in raw form. Basically, the data is in the form of numbers, letters, or a set of characters. It also includes symbols, pictures, or audio data. This raw data is scattered and is not aligned with some context.

Whereas Information is in the form of ideas and inferences or conclusions that are based on the data. The raw data is analyzed and organized in whatever context and only the necessary data is kept and the rest is discarded.

For instance, consider the below number:


This figure is a data entity and doesn’t provide any meaning.

To convert this data into information we need to keep it in some context. Let’s think of a context like a birthdate – 02/01/1994 i.e;  Jan 02, 1994.

You can interpret the same number as an account number or a mobile number.

4. Reliability

If we talk in the term of reliability, then obviously the information wins on this. The information is reliable as it conveys some meaning and there are proper organization and dedication to a single context.

On the other hand, data is raw and can be provided in any context. Moreover, with every context and structure the output or the meaning of the data changes. Hence, the data is unreliable when compared to Information.

Consider the example above of the number 02011994.

When it is in the form of the date of birth i.e; 02/01/1994 then it depicts a straightforward meaning. This has a clear context.

But if we consider the number only, then it converts into any form and provides a number of meanings that change according to the context.

5. Dependency

In the terms of dependency, the data is independent. As you know the data is raw and data can contain anything. Hence, the data does not depend on any sort of condition or circumstances. It can stand alone.

But, the information depends completely on the data. You cannot process the information without the data. Data is a very basic building block of information.

If there is no data then there will be no information.

6. Input and Output

A representation of the input, process, output system

This is the easiest way to differentiate between the two. Data is something that you give as input for processing. After processing, what you get as output is the information.

Let’s take an example of a collage maker application. You provide different photographs that you want to arrange in the collage as the input to the application. After providing the images, they are processed and aligned according to the chosen theme. In the end, you get a single collage image as the output from the application.

7. Decision Making

You cannot make a decision based on the data while you can make a decision based on information.

To take a decision on a situation, the very first thing is that you must know and understand the conditions and the circumstances correctly. This is possible only if you have the correct information.

Information plays a vital role in the process of decision making. The actions that a person takes are based on the information that they have.

But if we say about data, as data is raw and is meaningless so it is useless in decision making. You can not make a decision on the basis of raw facts and figures. And if you do so, then there is a high priority that the decision may be wrong as it will rely on assumptions.

8. Based on observations

Data is based on observations and records. The statistics and the tables of collections of figures are the sources of data.

And the source of information is data. Moreover, the information is based on the context that is in the alignment of data.

9. Analysis

The Data is never analyzed in its initial form. Once data is analyzed nor the analysis of data is done, the data becomes information at the same moment.

It means that the information is always analyzed, whereas the data is never in the analyzed form. Once the data is analyzed, it is converted into information.

10. Usefulness

The last term of differentiation is a matter of usefulness. Both the data and information are useful in their own terms as the data is the base to create the information. Without data, there is no information.

But if you see it from the perspective of a business, then, the data is not so much important. This is so because there is a whole lot of processing needs to be done on data to make it useful or understand something out of it.

On the other hand, Information is always useful as it provides some meaning for further decision making.

Hence, the information is always way more useful than the data.

Wrapping Things Up

In this article, you understood what data and information are and what are the various differences between data and information.

For any query regarding the topic please write straight to me in the Ask the Author box below.

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