The term data refers to qualitative or quantitative attributes of a variable or set of variables. Data, which is the plural of datum are typically the results of measurements and can be the basis of graphs, images, or observations of a set of variables. Data are often viewed as the lowest level of abstraction from which information and then knowledge are derived. Raw data refers to a collection of numbers, characters, images or other outputs from devices that collect information to convert physical quantities into symbols that are unprocessed. The data being collected by Freeway Ford pertaining to the dates when cars were purchased and the names of the owners are just numbers and characters, and as my definition of Information below will show, the inability of Freeway Ford to translate this data into anything meaningful renders it short of being described as information. Information, on the other hand, is raw data that (1) has been verified to be accurate and timely, (2) is specific and organized for a purpose, (3) is presented within a context that gives it meaning and relevance, and which (4) leads to increase in understanding and decrease in uncertainty. The value of information lies solely in its ability to affect a behavior, decision, or outcome. A piece of information is considered valueless if, after receiving it, things remain unchanged. In the case of Freeway Ford, if the company had been contacting customers about routine maintenance with the data it had collected about the purchase dates of cars and the names of their owners, and if the company had further followed up three to four years later, when car owners are generally known to be ready to trade in their cars to try and get them to do trade-ins with Freeway Ford, the data they had collected would have translated into something useful, something that could change the way business was being done, and would have information.
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