Information, in a broad sense, is structured, processed and organised data. It gives context to previously processed data and allows quick decision making on which action to take. For instance, a simple customer’s sale in a restaurant is statistical data-this becomes information once the business has identified the most popular or lowest priced dish. However, before it can become knowledge, it must first be communicated, i.e. presented to a group of people.
Knowledge management refers to the process by which information is managed, used and maximised. Knowledge management is achieved through the interaction of people, their needs, their capabilities, their knowledge and their actions. The interaction takes place via several different processes: information and knowledge discovery, problem solving, information maintenance and improvement, collaboration and information exchange or sharing. These processes are interrelated and each one has a role in the achievement of a goal. They are coupled and when they are combined, they form a well-oiled continuous data processing cycle.
As a result of this interplay between information and knowledge, there arises a need for efficient means of storing, protecting and ensuring the quality of information and knowledge. The resulting need for information and knowledge management therefore drives the development of information science as a discipline. It is a process of realizing information and knowledge in terms of its utility to a particular group of people, through the use of sophisticated technology and by coordinating the use of information and knowledge across various disciplines and units.
In the broad sense, information science refers to the application of science and mathematics to solve practical problems. The applications may be theoretical in nature; for instance, in the field of information systems. However, information science is often regarded as a set of techniques and discipline to be applied in order to solve practical problems. This is not all. It may also involve a set of skills and knowledge that embrace information security, risk management, networks, digital technologies and other areas as part of its overall objective.
Information science has emerged as a discipline due to its contribution to various fields of science and engineering. For instance, computer science has developed in the context of information systems, including its applications to the field of security systems. In contrast with computer science, engineering does not focus on information. Nevertheless, information is crucial in the overall scheme of things, because without information, we cannot move forward in the fields of engineering, architecture and business. Therefore, engineering needs to develop its expertise in information systems, especially when it comes to dealing with security issues.
One of the major challenges that information science teams must address is designing a good information system. With regards to business, an information system involves the whole business process, including decision-making, production, distribution, marketing, advertising, financial transactions and interaction among the different units. A good information system allows users to make informed decisions based on accurate and up-to-date information, thus enhancing their productivity levels. This way, information science aims to build better businesses, by fostering information and developing the ability to manage and use it for the benefit of the company.