Data and Information
The term "data" (plural form of datum) refers to "an individual fact, statistic, or a piece of information or a group or a body of facts, statistics or the like" (Random House Dictionary of the English language, College Edition, 1975). Thus, data may be described as discrete and unorganised pieces of information. Data become "information" when these pieces are processed, interpreted and presented in an organised or logical form to facilitate a better comprehension of the concerned topic or issue. In other words, data become information when processed and presented to form an intelligible context. The following examples will be helpful in bringing out the difference between the two:
i) The Meteorological Department is responsible for the daily collection of atmospheric data on weather. These data are presented in quantitative terms, e.g., tables containing rainfall or temperature figures over a period relating to different regions. The pilot of an aircraft needs weather data relating to the region over which he/she would fly. He/She would rather prefer a brief forecast note on the weather conditions based on these tables which would tell him/her whether he/she would face air turbulence on the route. These processed and interpreted data then become information.
ii) Reserve Bank of India Bulletin regularly publishes notifications on exchange control regulations as and when some existing regulations are amended or new ones introduced. We may say that each notification contains discrete pieces of facts or information. If, however, these notifications, at a later stage, are organised or consolidated in such a manner that all the related pieces are brought together, (e.g. those dealing with the foreign exchange regulation relating to business travel), then such a consolidation becomes information.
iii) A scientist studying the behavior of a chemical compound under different physical conditions would observe and record the relevant data provided by the experiments. These data or raw facts would not convey any meaning unless he filters; analyses and integrates them and finally interprets his findings. The resultant product-then becomes information.