5 Differences between Data and Information

The terms “data” and “information” are often used interchangeably. However, there are important differences between data and information in regards to their meaning, significance, and value. Data are the facts and details, from which information can be derived. Individual pieces of data are hardly useful, unless they are given a context or are processed so that information can be produced. Below, you can read about the 5 differences between data and information with detailed explanation.

1. The Difference of Etymology
The first difference between data and information is regarding the etymology. Although they are now common English words, they actually came from different roots. Interestingly, “information” is actually an older word than “data”.

“Data” actually comes from a single Latin word, which is “datum”, which means “something that is given”. The earliest usage of the word dates back to the 17th century. Over time, “data” has eventually become the plural word for “datum”.

“Information”, on the other hand, is an even older word. It dates back to the 14th century, featuring Middle English and Old French origins. It was used to refer to “the act of informing”, usually in regard to instruction, education, and knowledge communication.

2. The Difference of Meaning
Data and information actually refer to different things. They have different meanings. Make sure that you understand the context and use the right word to avoid confusion.

Data is a collection of raw, unorganized facts or details which require to be processed. Some people also define data as raw numbers or findings that independently have little to no value. Data is seemingly random and useless, at least until it is organized, processed, or given a context. For example, you have the numbers of ticket sales of a touring band; these numbers are hardly useful or meaningful if you don’t know what to do with them.

On the other hand, information is interpreted facts or details. You can also describe information as the data that has been converted into a meaningful or useful form. Information is acquired from the data that has been organized, processed, or presented in a specific context so that they become useful. For example, the sales report by venue and region can be considered as information, as it can tell you which venue is the most profitable.

3. The Difference of Source
Most data are just simple records that are acquired from findings, either from documentation or from observing an event or object. So, you can say that data are based on records and observations.

On the other hand, information is acquired after the data is processed. Information is acquired from a research, if we are talking in the field of science. You can also say that information is acquired from a processing mechanism which handle the data make them useful.

4. The Difference of Significance
By itself, data is meaningless and not significant. It does not have any significance if not given a context, use, or purpose. Nobody cares about a group of numbers that have nothing to do with them.

Information holds significance even if it is standing by itself. Because information can give you a certain insight or knowledge, it is a significant and meaningful thing, at least for a person or a group of people.

5. The Difference of Value
Finally, the last difference of the 5 differences between data and information is regarding the value. Data is valueless, whereas information is valuable.

Data alone is meaningless, so it offers little to no value at all. But it can become valuable for someone who knows what to do with it or how to process it.

On the other hand, information is valuable. Since information is something that you can use and understand, it can benefit you by giving insight or knowledge.

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