Introduction to Information Systems

What is Data?

It is a set of facts which describes a particular thing in the real world. It may represent a single value or multiple values. For example, marks of a particular subject of a student in a class represent a single value data. At the same time, such a mark may exist with marks of other students who took that subject. In order to add the value for these marks, it may be necessary to access data of other facts such as students’ name, index number and year of examination etc.

More examples of Data in different contexts :

• In a company : employee’s name, number of hours worked in a week, inventory part numbers, sales orders.
• In environment : Rainfall data, temperature data.

What is Information?

Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish data and information. Information is a kind of data which will be very useful for decision making in different contexts. Simply, it has more value than data to understand a particular context.

For example, a teacher may want to know how many students have obtained marks above 50 in a particular subject. He/she may also want to know the student who obtained the highest mark in the classroom. In such a situation, the teacher has to analyze data about student marks together with their identification numbers.

More examples of Information in different contexts :

• In a company : monthly salary of an individual in the salary slip, total sales in a particular month of the company, etc.
• In environment : Monthly report of rainfall, temperature analysis report of each part of the country during a particular year.
• In personal life : Total expenses in a particular month.

Data can be converted into information by carrying out some series of activities on data. These activities involve some mathematical operations and/or tabulation operation. Process describes this series of activities.

Information can be considered as an artifact in a particular context similar to other artifacts. These artifacts are useful to carry out some other activities in. For example, furniture is built using wood as raw material. The wood is produced using timber in trees. Interestingly, timber cannot be directly used to produce furniture and it must be converted to intermediate state called wood. This process requires specific knowledge which describes rules, guidelines and procedures.


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