What is the difference between data and information?

Updated: 05/21/2018 by Computer Hope

Most people believe that the terms "data" and "information" are interchangeable and mean the same thing. However, there is a distinct difference between the two words. Data can be any character, text, word, number, and, if not put into context, means little or nothing to a human. However, information is data formatted in a manner that allows it to be utilized by human beings in some significant way. A good example would be a computer using formulas, programming scripts, or software applications to turn data into information.

Example of Data

UT, 1234, Joe, Circle, SLC, 8015553211, 84084, Smith

Example of Information

Joe Smith
1234 Circle
Salt Lake City, UT 84084
(801) 555-3211

As you can see in the example above, the data appears to be a set of random words and numbers. However, when that data is interpreted, organized, and formatted, you can tell that it is contact information for Joe Smith. In this example, the data could have been a CSV file that could be parsed by a spreadsheet or database which would make it usable information.

Additional information