Data and Information. These terms are often used interchangeably, though they actually mean very different things. I recently came across this example*, provided by Sir Nigel Shadbolt, Professor of Artificial Intelligence at Southampton University. He says:
When I give you a number, like 37, you don’t know whether that is somebody’s age or a particular kind of temperature or some kind of stock price.
Until I put it in context.
Then, that data becomes information.
And, if I can do something with that information (I can use it to give you some kind of antibiotic because you got a fever, or sell a share because it is worth selling), that’s knowledge.
So, what we usually refer to as open data, actually is information because it exists in a context. For instance, we don’t just get a database with timings or percentage numbers. We also know that those numbers refer to train timetables or infection rates in hospital. And it is that contextual element which turns data into information and that, in turn, also gives (open) data its value.