Chapter 2: Elements of Information Systems2 of 33since it would be very difficult to locate the phone number based on a resident's lastname. What converts these data into useful information, namely a phone directory, isthe process of alphabetizing the data. That is, if names and phone numbers are sortedin order of the last name of residents, then the data become useful. The sorted list isuseful since it is now possible to locate the phone number of any resident so long asyou know the last name of the resident. Information alone is only a means to an end.The right information delivered at the right time and interpreted in the right manner canlead to knowledge. Knowledge in turn can lead to wisdom and/or power. An excellentexample of information versus knowledge, wisdom, and power is the Internet. There aretrillions of megabytes of information on countless home pages on the Web, but only fewof us obtain knowledge about a particular topic from the Internet. Fewer still can convertthat knowledge into wisdom or power. The data-to-power value chain, also referred tosimply as the
information value chain
, is shown in the following figure.
For information to be truly useful and meaningful to a user, it must meet certainqualities. It must be
. The relevance of information pertains to itsability to assist a user in making a decision. For information to be relevant, it must bereceived in a timely manner and must have the capacity to change the user's decision. Itmust be made available soon enough to make a difference and must make the userbetter off relative to his or her situation prior to receipt of that information. Reliability ofinformation has to do with its accuracy and freedom from errors. Information replete witherrors is unreliable and can potentially lead the user to an incorrect decision. Controlmechanisms must be placed within the information system to prevent intentional andunintentional errors in data input, processing, and information output. A concept closelyrelated to reliability is reproducibility. Using the same data as input, and applying thesame processing methods, another information system should generate identicalinformation. In summary, data represents raw facts, whereas information is data mademeaningful. Information must be both relevant and reliable to really be useful to adecision maker. Having discussed the difference between data and information, let usnow explore how data are stored in computer-based information systems.
Hierarchy of data
At the lowest level, all computer systems store data in the form of
. A bit is a binarydigit and can take a value of either 0 (turned off) or 1 (turned on). In essence, a bit isturned on by a tiny electrical impulse and is turned off when the impulse is discharged.A group of bits forms a
. In most computer systems, eight bits form a byte. A byte is