Let’s first answer what is data. Data is the raw material or facts that are not analyzed to give any meaning. They cannot be used for decision-making because they are not arranged or organized in a manner that users can interpret. Data is taken and manipulated in different ways to give information.
So the information is data that has been processed or manipulated to give it meaning that users can comprehend and use. Information is the final product of the raw material that was entered into the computer. Information can be used for making decisions among other things.
For data to be processed it involves 4 stages collection, input, processing, and output of results. The main types of data processing include batch, manual, mechanical, electronic, and real-time
3 main types of data
- Numerical: This is the type of data that contains numbers 0-9 and operators that manipulate the number. Number data can be used in mathematical calculations.
- Text This involves a string of characters that can be of any language. Characters include all special characters from any language that is used to communicate. i.e alphanumeric.
- Multimedia: This type includes images, videos, graphs, and any other that graphically represent data. The graphics can be scanned images, computer-generated or camera-captured images.
6 characteristics of quality data
1. Timeliness of data
When data is delivered is crucial and if it is not delivered on time then it becomes useless. If for example information that shows that the price of a certain company share is going up is not delivered on time even if it comes later it will not help the investor because the chance is already gone.
Reliability is another important characteristic of data that determined if data is correct for decision making. The information should have a high chance of success if it is used to solve the intended problem, that when it proves to be reliable. The source of data also should be reliable enough to be trusted with the data that they give.
It is the measure of how truthful the information is compared to what it is supposed to be used for. When information is used for comparison it should be chosen from information that is as close as much as possible.
It should always be accurate to ensure the results of processing are correct. If the data given is garbage then it will give information that is garbage too.
For better decision making data should be complete to ensure decisions deduced from them are accurate. Incomplete data or information means wrong decision hence negative consequences.
Data should have a purpose that it was intended to be used for even before it is disseminated. The purpose can be for use by an information system, person, or even for complimenting another information.
4 stages of the data processing life cycle
For data to be useful it is taken through the data processing cycle which includes data collection, entry, processing, and output of the results. It is the process that data is manipulated to convert it into useful information. It involves the following steps.
1. Data collection
This is the first step that involves collecting all types of relevant data that will be used in the data processing. Data collection can be done through interviews, questionnaires, observation, taking pictures, reading literature material, and all other available sources.
2. Input stage
It involves keying or inputting collected facts and figures into the computer in a format understandable to the computer. It entails:
Data verification: it involves trying to verify or determine if the data entered is correct i.e. it is in collect format. If it is a student number does it contain all the required parts etc?
Data coding: after the data has been verified to be correct the next step is to code it in a format that can enable the computer to process it. It can be coded by assigning different nominal values to represent it.
3. Data processing stage
This step involves real manipulation to convert data into information. It involves the following activities.
Classification of data: data is grouped into groups that have some homogeneity within it for simple analysis and manipulation. Student records can be grouped in terms of year of study or the course of study.
Calculation: depending on the type of data being manipulated it can involve carrying out calculations to get information out of it. Manipulation can involve mathematical and statistical operations that are available.
Summarization: data can be summarized into smaller tables or graphs.
Storage: as the data is being processed it is stored temporally on the main memory and later it is stored in the secondary storage for future reference.
4. Output of data (Information)
The step involves generating the required information for dissemination to the right recipient.
Conversion: for simplicity of understanding of the information it can be converted to graphical representations which are simple to deduce information very first and simple. It can also be converted to other formats which are appropriate for the intended audience of the information
Retrieval and Communication: after the information is converted it needs to be retrieved and communicated to the right audience. It can be in soft or hard copy. The communication can be through printed media, presentation, publication, or any other suitable methods that are appropriate.
Storage: information is stored on secondary storage for future reference and uses if need be.
5 types of data processing
1. Batch processing
It deals with processing that is not time critical. The data is corrected for a given period and then it is processed at once. This was the oldest mode of processing. It is most economical for periodical information such as wage processing, payroll, billing system, etc.
2. Real-time processing
It can be manual or electronic but more convenient for electronic processing. In this technique, data is processed immediately when it is entered into the computer or received. There is no delay in processing. It is mostly used on web-based systems or systems that are time critical. An air ticket system is real-time processing because you don’t what to assign two people the same seat. Also, bank transactions must be real-time processing.
3. Electronic data processing (EDP)
It is a method that uses computers and electronic devices to carry out the processing. Today the most company uses this method because it cut operation cost. The management information system or computerized information system uses this EDP method of processing. It is the fastest way of data processing
4. Manual data processing
It is the processing that involves purely human manipulation. There are no computers or electronic devices that are used. It is most prone to a lot of error and requires high operating costs for the individual who will be doing the job. In today’s information age this type of processing is outdated.
5. Mechanical data processing
This is the type of data processing that is done by use of a mechanical device such as a typewriter or calculator. They help improve on manual processing of data.
Uses of information
Information is used for decision-making, predicting outcomes, and researching further on the missing part of the information.
1. Decision making
The main use of information is for decision-making. The information enables the decision maker to reduce the uncertainty of the outcome. Deciding without correct and timely information increase the level of uncertainty and the probability of failure is certain.
2. Prediction of future outcomes
Information can be used to predict the outcome if the situation in question is closely related to the information that is being used. When scientists research certain phenomena they use the results (information) to predict how similar situations will happen.