In this Unit, we shall look at the meaning of civil Services, of information as also the meaning of other related words such as data, facts, intelligence, advice, knowledge and wisdom. Although often these words are often used anonymously, each one is different from the other in meaning. Some of them are explained here with examples with special reference to library and information science.
Information emanates from all human activities and achievements; both individuals and corporate bodies are involved in the creation of information for some purpose or the other. Research and Development activities, for instance, generate new information which, in turn, is used as a basis for bringing forth more information. Some organisations are entrusted with the task of collecting and organizing statistical information through census and surveys. A state with its organs of executive, legislature; judiciary, business and industry generates vast amount of information and contributes substantially to its growth.
We shall also study in this Unit why information gets generated at all. This is explained by taking typical examples of information needs of a wide cross-section of people; viz., students, teachers, medical and legal practitioners, engineers, technologists, business managers, industrialists, government officials, legislators, research workers, and other specialist groups.
You may often hear or read in newspapers and other popular magazines about "exponential growth of information" or "explosion of information " about current affairs and computers are to be used for handling such large mass of information and for quick retrieval of the desired items from it. We talk about the "growth" or "explosion" because we see around us, large bookshops, libraries and newsstands, a wide array of publications - books, periodicals, newspapers and news magazines. The much talked about information is recorded in these publications. The term "information" is used very loosely. It is therefore necessary, in the context of library and information science, to know its more precise meaning. The term "data" (plural form of datum) refers to "an individual fact, statistic, or a piece of information or a group or a body of facts, statistics or the like". Thus, data may be described as discrete and unorganized pieces of information. Data become “information" when these pieces are processed, interpreted and presented in an organized or logical form to facilitate a better comprehension of the concerned topic or issue. In other words, data become information when processed and presented to form an intelligible context.
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