The Nature of Geographic Information

3. Information


Information is data that has been selected or created in response to a question. For example, the location of a building or a route is data, until it is needed to dispatch an ambulance in response to an emergency. When used to inform those who need to know, "Where is the emergency, and what's the fastest route between here and there?" the data are transformed into information. The transformation involves the ability to ask the right kind of question, and the ability to retrieve existing data--or to generate new data from the old--that help people answer the question. The more complex the question and the more locations involved, the harder it becomes to produce timely information with paper maps alone.

Interestingly, the potential value of data is not necessarily lost when they are used. Data can be transformed into information again and again, provided that the data are kept up to date. Given the rapidly increasing accessibility of computers and communications networks in the U.S. and abroad, it's not surprising that information has become a commodity, and that the ability to produce it has become a major growth industry.