Often the terms data, information and knowledge are used synonymously. The meaning, however, is not the same, so in this article we want to define the terms, separate them from one another, and show their connection.
In order to understand where the differences and the connections between data, information and knowledge are, it is necessary to define the terms at first.
Data (singular: date) are understood differently in different sectors. In the basic form, data are different symbols and characters whose meaning only becomes clear when they connect with context. Collecting and measuring observations generates data. Usually machines sent, receive and process data. The confusion between data and information often arises because information is made out of data. In addition, data often gets interpreted as facts in the context of the colloquial meaning and are therefore regarded as information.
An example of data: 17091985 – Only with this sequence of numbers is little to begin. If, however, the information connects to a context, the number sequence can be decrypted and represents information (date of birth: 17.09.1985).
Data reaches a more complex level and becomes information by integrating them to a context. Information provides expertise about facts or persons. Example of information: The information about a date of birth still has very little value when it is unknown to which person it belongs. By adding more information like the name, the linked information creates knowledge about a person.
Knowledge thus describes the collected information that is available about a particular fact or a person. The knowledge of this situation makes it possible to make informed decisions and solve problems. Thus, knowledge influences the thinking and actions of people. Machines can also make decisions based on new knowledge generated by information. In order to gain knowledge, it is necessary to process information.
Differences and context of terms
The definitions reveal the differences and a process can be identified that transforms data to information to knowledge through appropriate processing steps. Data transforms into information by assigning a meaning or context to a date. Furthermore, the accumulation of a data bundle or the linking of various data can also represent information. The moment the information is processed, linked and stored, whether by a machine or a human being, it becomes knowledge. If you trace the path back, the data represents the knowledge and information at a formal level.