Cambridge Technical Introductory Diploma in IT

(Unit 2 - LO2)

Understand the styles, classification and management of global data

 

Part -

How many different types of data do you receive in a day? Create a mind map (in Visio) of the sources from which you receive information on a typical school day and another mind map that shows the sources from which you receive information on a day over the weekend.

Try to explain any differences in the type of data you receive on a school day and on days you are not in school.

2.1 Information styles and their uses.

Some of this text seems to interchange the words data and information as if they are the same thing; they aren't and I will edit this text shortly to rectify this.

Text

Text (the written format) is the simplest format in which to keep information. However, different character sets are used in different parts of the world. This text for example is written in a western character set (Unicode UTF-8 to be precise). Other texts can be written in other character sets, Cyrillic used in Eastern Europe and Chinese character sets exist as well as Arabic scripts used wherever Arabic is spoken.

Graphic

Diagrams are the most obvious examples of graphics as they are usually intended to provide instructions or knowledge. Logos represent an organisation and also convey information (brand value, trustworthiness, probity). Some logos contain the organisation's name (Google, Kellogg's) while others are famous just for the graphic design (Nike swoosh, Olympic rings). Either way they attempt to convey certain information about the brand (the Firefox curls round the world, the Amazon logo points from A to Z) which may or may not be aimed subconsciously at the reader.

Video

Information is conveyed as a visual and audio presentation. Seeing others perform a tasks, for example, or showing examples of what they are talking about and usually more engaging than just listening to a person speak. A video about how to make a website is likely to be more interesting and informative than a verbal description.

Animated graphic

An animated graphic is an image where elements can move and change. hey offer the advantage over video in that the can offer step-by-step instructions as well as text. Individual scenes can be shown for longer (although video can be paused by the viewer or rewound) than a video. Scenes can be zoomed in or provide exploded views so that what is happening can be seen in greater detail.

Audio

Audio is recorded sound and can include the spoken word as well as music. The tradition of using songs to tell a story is nothing new (Beowolf circa 1000AD is a sung poem), folk songs to opera tell stories. Audio can be used to check that creations sound as they should (music practice) and sung mnemonics help revision (in some cases). Audio also offers access to the visually impaired. Websites should be constructed in such as way as to support screen readers (WCAG2.0 rules). Audio description is used to help a visually impaired person access visual material.

Numerical

Numerical information is presented as numbers. This includes financial information such as profit and loss accounts or statistical information such as the performance of a group of students in a class. Dates and times are also presented as numbers and so fall into this classification.

Braille text

Braille is the tactile form of writing that uses raised dots on a page that are read by touch. Created by Louis Braille in 1824. As each letter is represented by a specific arrangement of dots on the page it may be regarded as another form of written text. It cannot be replicated electronically (all though a 3D printer could print a braille book easily enough) although braille printers can replicate braille text for braille readers.

Tactile images

As well as Braille information can be presented in other tactile forms. For example a viewer can feel and experience shapes through touch and not just by sight. Clearly tactile images cannot yet convey colour. NASA's project to create tactile images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope is a good example of how images that would otherwise not be accessible have been made available to people who cannot explore them by sight.

Subtitles

Subtitles enable deaf viewers to access audio information; films, interviews and other news items can be "translated" using subtitles.

Live programmes such as news programmes can have the subtitles added by speech to text software with often hilarious results. Adnan Junazaj becoming Janet jazz jazz jam for example.

Boolean

Boolean (George Boole (1815–1864) was an English mathematician and a founder of the algebraic tradition in logic) information is any information that can be in only one of two states; usually "true" or "false" or "yes" or "no". For example the answer to the question "does the dog live?" has only a "yes" or "no" answer.

Tables and spreadsheets

Numerical data can be help in many forms. Using a database or a spreadsheet means that the data can be analysed. For example by using queries in a database to look for patterns or trends in the data.

Charts and graphs

Charts and graphs can represent data in a more visual manner than the tables of text by themselves. Many people find charts and graphs easier to use when analysing trends and patterns in the data.

2.2 Information classification

More than one of the following descriptions can be applied to any one piece of information. These are the ideas accepted by the examination board and may not be the same as common parlance.

Different holders of information have need to take account of these classifications; for example confidential personal information needs to be held more securely than non-confidential information.

Sensitive

Sensitive information should not be readily available. Usually it could cause harm if it were to be released. This definition works for business information as well as personal information. The best example of sensitive information is one's medical record; might it affect employment or insurance costs or be embarrassing if medical records were made public? For a business sensitive data might include patent information, family recipes for say a drink (Guiness) or a foodstuff or high technology items such as the exact contents of a battery (although not everyone might want a Samsung battery at the moment).

Non-sensitive

This is information that clearly should be in the public domain such as the addresses of a head office or the name of a doctor responsible for a practice.

Private

This is the information directly regarding an individual or an organisation. It would included addresses, phone numbers nationality gender and marital status. As such it is covered by one of the provisions of the Data Protection Act (1998) and would need to be held in a manner commensurate with the provisions of the Act.

Any other information that was not personal would not be covered under the Act.

Public

This is not information that is in the public domain but information about organisations that are publicly owned or the government.

Personal

This is information about a specific individual such as a phone number.

Business

Simply, this is information in the public domain about a business such as its annual sales which would be published in its accounts on a an annual basis.

Confidential

This is private information that is to be kept private. This is a higher degree of restriction than sensitive information and implies a degree of professional conduct on behalf of the recipient. For example a report regarding a particular student at school or a report from one medical professional to another regarding a patient.

Classified

This is public information that is to be kept private such as NHS records.

Partially or completely anonymised

Information that is fully anonymised has any information that would enable an individual or organisation to be identified, removed. Logically partially anonymised data has some but not all of the information removed.

Impacts on different stakeholders

Stakeholders are those individuals or organisations with an interest in or are impacted by the actions of an organisation. Stakeholders can be internal or external to the organisation.

As a group work out a list of all of the stakeholders of an imaginary, small printing business.

2.3 Quality of information.

Characteristics

Information can have many characteristics; for example:

Valid information is useful, generally because it fits the need to which it is being put. There are many reasons why information can be considered valid; for example information should be on time and accurate.

Biased information presents a one-sided view of a situation or event. It may be correct, but ignores any other information that could present an alternative view of that same situation or event. For example, the information regarding a house for sale will focus on the promising features such as the new kitchen but ignore the fact that it is on an airport flight path.

Comparable information can be compared with similar information; for example comparing the sales figures of two similar sized companies that operate in similar industries in different continents.

Importance of good quality information to stakeholders

The more reliable the information the better quality the decision based on that information as it provides clear focus for objectives. For example, research information could be the basis for innovation, while sales information could be used to inform strategic decisions. If the information is not accurate or biased then the decisions made will be based on false or biased information which would then undermine the effectiveness of the decisions being made.

Consequence of poor quality information on stakeholders.

Poor quality information can lead to bad decisions. The impact could be a failed project or a missed opportunity, but the longer term impact could be that the information being given by the organisation might be consequently wrong or that the organisation's reputation may be damaged. For example if a research project interviewed a small sample of people, the conclusions drawn from the project might be applicable to the general public and so a new product may not sell as well as intended or as well as predicted by the research.

Standard of information

The Standard of information used within a company is important, a lot of information from an unreliable source is useless, detracting, whereas a small amount of information from a reliable source, or a valid source, could be invaluable to a company’s finances and legal status.

Reliability of data sources – Companies get into the habit of using the same sources of information, Schools look at previous schools, Businesses use references, other companies use Ombudsmen to source their information. A reliable source is a company who supplies on time, in tact, detailed and useful information. There are no rules, news sources get it wrong sometimes.

Source reliability sometimes comes down to first hand or second hand sources, primary or secondary, companies tend to limit the possible risks by verifying sources. In standard journalism such as Television it is their policy to use three reliable sources before a news article goes on the air. In printed materials from university, quoted sources tend to be primary.

Validity – Unlike reliability which is a matter of opinion, validity means verified sources. Just because the user trusts the sources (reliable) it might not be the best source for the material, it might lack qualification, it might lack detail. Some people see Wikipedia as a reliable source because a lot of people have read it and corrected it but not as a valid one. If a user can change the information through opinion then it is no longer valid and Wiki is an opinion based site.

For website sources companies like http://whois.domaintools.com/ verifies the validity of a site, age, hits, links, Dmoz and Yahoo counts etc. but this is still down to the user to confirm that the information on the site is the best information for the purpose.

Relevance – Information overkill, having too much information that gets in the way of relating what needs to be said. The Data Protect Act stops companies from gathering too much irrelevant information for a purpose but does not stop a company from using too much irrelevant information to tell the customer what they need to know. Companies prefer to have the answer asked rather than additional information. This is the reason Secondary companies are hired to do market research, they come back with the answers, not more questions.

Similarly the amount of information given to the customer is related to the relevance of the information. We buy our mobiles knowing what pixel depth it is, memory capacity, response speed and video transfer rate but we will only care about one of these, the one that made us buy the phone.

Time frame - How long information is relevant for is down to the need for the information and the content of the information. Schools need to keep student information up to three years after they have left but Apple only need to know what you liked about the iPhone 3 up to 3 months after the iPhone 4 came out. Likes change according to the user, age does not change more than once a year. All information is relevant for the period of the informational needs, and by law companies need to remove that information when it is no longer time relevant.

At the end of the day companies get to decide if the time frame has passed for the usefulness of the information.

Accessible – How accessible the information is can restrict a company from using it. The Census takes place every 10 years, the information within it will change daily, access to more up to date information related to the census can take time and needs to be funded privately. For every piece of informational need there is, there will be a company who supplies it or one who has already sought it. For some companies accessible can mean financial, if they cannot afford it then they will do without it. Other restrictions in terms of access can include:

  • Legal reasons – There might be copyright, an injunction, restricted to another country, security restricted.
  • Financial – might cost too much, might be a charge on use, might involve using too many staff to get the information or an external company to source it.
  • Time restricted – not supplied in time like a company report, not available to the new tax year, in the process of updating
  • Too Personal – under the Data protection Act, contains sensitive information, not the kind of thing to ask

Quality – In terms of information gathering the quality of the information is as important as time or relevance. Companies need the most up to date, most relevant and valid information, these all add up to quality as well as the right information, using the right data, gathered and worked out in the right method, formulated and analysed. For a school we would expect all the information from previous schools from attendance to behaviour, grades sporting achievement, family information to learning needs. There is a lot of information in there about each student and all useful to someone. Quality of information for a school comes down to conciseness, compatibility, depth, structure and consistency. For companies this might also include accuracy, detail, relationships between information and industry relation.

Cost-effective – You get what you pay for, this is true for information as well, the quality and standard of the information is down to cost. Census information is free, local government information, certain statistics are free, everything else costs. Companies work to a deadline and settle for the information they have if time is running out. Companies set aside a budget for information gathering and manipulation, every department works within that budget, Online surveys are free, computers can gather the results and draw comparisons for free, they can be linked so all opinions on qualitative data is stored separately for free but this still does not make it the best way to gather information. Companies choose their data gathering tools for different reasons, cost is one of the larger more deliberate reasons.

Appropriate – They say they 49.99% of all adults are taller than average. They say that 22% of all statistics are made up, just like this one. Surveys on the street are rushed, people rarely like being stopped on the street to answer questions for they give false results to get through it. The solution is to ask more people, if 1 person in 10 lies that is 10%, if 25 in 1000 like that is 2.5%. If the method of data collection requires 100 responses then this will give a more accurate response. Similarly if a survey is asking about shopping habits and is done at 9.30 on a Tuesday morning, responses can be influenced, this is signing on day when there are more unemployed people around to throw out the results. Asking about IT skills in an online survey means the user will already have some skills already to be on the computer filling it out. The appropriateness of the timing, the location, the kind of data responses all can have an impact on the data gathering.

2.4 Information management.

Information management is the process of controlling information so that it is used effectively. Last year's notes are more detailed on many of these points and include additional ideas that will prove useful.

Collecting storing and retrieving

Information needs to be collected, stored and if it is to be used for analysis retrieved. A database allows information to be collected via a form, stored as records and then retrieved and sorted using queries. If you wish to join a club you could fill in a form on a website which could be stored in a members table. This table could be searched or queried at a later date so that relevant membership statistics could be generated.

Manipulating and processing

This is the stage at which information is processed for later analysis. Graphical representation of information makes good sense so that patterns and trends can easily be seen and identified.

Analysing

When considering data, analysts look for patterns and trends.

The charts show similar sales figures in 2014 and 2015 so the pattern is quite obvious but the trend might not be so obvious. The data can be processed further to identify the trend line and show the upward trend of sales.

This knowledge when connected to normal business data such as the Christmas advertising campaign will show that the campaign has been successful in the last two years.

Securing

Information needs to be kept securely in order to protect it. It is clear that it is in a businesses own interest to protect its own sensitive data but it is also a requirement of the DPA to ensure that data is kept secure. System analysts use encryption to ensure that information is protected from access by unauthorized persons. In addition securing the data means that it cannot be lost; it is backed up so that in the event that it is lost it can easily be replaced and the business function can continue uninterrupted. All removable devices should in theory be encrypted to ensure that data cannot be lost accidentally.

Transmitting

Once information has been processed it may need to be transmitted within out outside an organisation. For example a student's school report is created by collecting information from teachers and then analysed by a tutor who looks for patterns and trends and is then sent home to parents. Written documents can be e-mailed and electronic documents can be uploaded to a shared portal for download later by authorised persons when required. There is always a duty imposed by DPA to ensure that such transmission outside of a system is done securely and as far as the data is concerned, safely.

Impact on individuals and organisations

Processing information places responsibilities on individuals and organisations. Extra security has costs such as extra servers, improved fire walls, anti-virus software and back-up locations. However these costs are often offset against the benefits gained by processing information which includes the impact of the knowledge gained.

  • 1. Identify one type of information that could be used with each of the following styles a) text; b) numerical; c) video; and d) charts.
  • 2. Describe how charts can be used to display trends in information.
  • 3. What is the difference between sensitive and non-sensitive information.
  • 4.Explain why biased information is unreliable.
  • 5. Explain two reasons why decisions based on poor information may be unreliable.