Difference between data, information and knowledge

Difference between data, information and knowledge

What differentiates the knowledge of the data and information? In an informal conversation, the three terms are often used interchangeably and this can lead to a free interpretation of the concept of knowledge.

Perhaps the easiest way to differentiate the terms to be thinking that the data are located in the world and knowledge is located in agents of any kind (individuals, businesses, machines …), while the information takes a mediating role between the two .

The concepts shown below are based on the definitions of Davenport and Prusak (1999).


Data are the minimal semantic unit and correspond to primary elements of information which by themselves are irrelevant to support decision making. They can also be seen as a discrete set of values that say nothing about the why of things and are not indicative for action.

A phone number or a name of a person, for example, are data without a purpose, a utility or a context does not serve as a basis to support decision making. Data can be a collection of facts stored in a physical place and a role, an electronic device (CD, DVD, hard drive …), or the mind of a person. In this regard the information technologies have contributed a lot to data collection.

As might be expected, the data can come from external or internal sources to the organization, can be objective or subjective, or qualitative or quantitative, etc.


Information can be defined as a set of data processed and that have meaning (relevance, purpose and context) and therefore are useful for who should make decisions by reducing uncertainty. Data can be transformed into information adding value:

  • Contextualizing: we know in what context and for what purpose were generated.
  • Categorizing: the units of measurement that help interpret known.
  • Calculating: the data may be processed mathematically or statistically.
  • Righting: they were eliminated errors and inconsistencies in the data.
  • Condensing: the data have been summarized more concisely (aggregation).

Therefore, information is the communication of knowledge or intelligence, and is able to change the way the receiver perceives something, impacting on their value judgments and their behaviors.

Information = Data + Context (add value) + Net income (reducing uncertainty)


Knowledge is a mixture of experience, values, information and know-how that serves as a framework for incorporating new experiences and information, and is useful for action. It originates and applied in the minds of connoisseurs. In organizations often not only you found within documents or data stores but is also in organizational routines, processes, practices, and standards.

Knowledge is derived from the information as well as information derived from the data. For information to become knowledge it is necessary to perform actions such as:

  • Comparison with other elements.
  • Predicting consequences.
  • Search for connections.
  • Conversation with other carriers of knowledge.

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