This article will help you to learn about the difference between data and information.

Difference between Data and Information


1. Data can be defined as groups of non-random symbols (words, values, figures) which represent things that have happened.

2. Data are facts obtained by observation or research and which are recorded. Frequently they are called raw or basic data and are often records of the day to day transactions of the organisation. For example; the date, amount and other details of an invoice or cheque, payroll details of pay, National Insurance and tax for a person, the output for a machine or shift, the number of vehicles passing a road monitoring point and so on.

3. Data are derived from both external and internal sources and whilst most external data are in readily usable and concrete forms — for example, bank statements, purchase invoices — internal activities require appropriate measuring and recording systems to be developed and maintained so that facts are recorded.


4. Data may be produced as an automatic by-product of some routine but essential operation such as the production of an invoice or alternatively a special counting or measuring procedure must be introduced and the results recorded. Much of cost accounting, stock control, production control and similar systems would fall into this latter category.


1. Information is data that have been interpreted and understood by the recipient of the message. It will be noted that the user not just the sender is involved in the transformation of data into information. There is a process of thought and understanding involved and it follows that a given message can have different meanings to different people.

It also follows that data which have been analysed, summarised or processed in some other fashion to produce a message or report which is conventionally deemed to be management information only becomes information if it is understood by the recipient. It is the user who determines whether a report contains information or just processed data.

Accordingly, it is vital for the producers of reports and messages of all types to be aware of the user’s requirements, education, position in the organisation, familiarity (or otherwise) with language and numeracy and the context in which the message will be used in order to increase the likelihood of information being derived from the message.


2. In summary, information is knowledge and understanding that is usable by the recipient. It reduces uncertainty and has surprise value. If a message or report does not have these attributes, as far as the recipient is concerned, it contains merely data not information. This is a crucial point not always fully appreciated by information specialists.