Data is raw material to be interpreted according to a context as well as to the background of the user and the specific needs relating to the task he is engaged in. Data are mute and meaningless without interpretation.
Information arises when data are interpreted in the realm of the tasks, the expectations and conceptual frames of their intended consumers. For Information Systems to deliver what users are looking for, a sharp difference needs to be drawn between the distribution infrastructure (the actual physical system and its operating software) and the content flowing within it.
It is this content, delivered by a system able to discriminate needs, knowledge and tasks of different types of consumers and translating data accordingly, that we term “Information”. It is everything but raw data: it should accommodate in its presentation, terminology, granularity and hierarchical structure the user it is delivered to. Different information may originate in the same factual source, by exploiting different facets of it: aspects of data concerning a shipping and an engineering service are different, although the raw material providing them is one and the same.
An Information Engineer is therefore concerned by designing data in a way that allows to draw adaptable knowledge from them. Sound models grant descriptions of data types allowing elaborations that fit the profile of different users at different levels (depth, relevance, presentation). He works in a team with System Engineers so as to insure the felicitous delivery of the content running through the system’s pipes.
Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are in care of the pipes, the terminals and the pumps. Content and content delivery interfaces are (or should be) in care of an Information Engineer capable of modelling Data and Information so as to meet high usability standards while integrating single-sourcing efficiency and smooth upgradability into his modelling practices.