Information versus Knowledge

In the april 2006 issue of Harvard Business Review (Vol. 84, Issue 4), there is a column by Lawrence Prusak that struck me: "The World Is Round". The author is actually taking the counter position of Thomas Friedman who claims that "“Several technological and political forces have converged, and that has produced a global, Web-enabled playing field that allows for multiple forms of collaboration without regard to geography or distance – or, soon, even language.” along with Bill Gates or Jakob Nielsen (who advocate for a similar idea).

Yes, we are interconnected on a truly astonishing scale. But Gates, Friedman, and many others make a fundamental error (...) Their mistake is that they’re confusing information with knowledge. (...) What’s the difference between information and knowledge? Information is a message, one-dimensional and bounded by its form: a document, an image, a speech, a genome, a recipe, a symphony score. You can package it and instantly distribute it to anyone, anywhere. Google, of course, is currently the ultimate information machine, providing instantaneous access to virtually any piece of information you can imagine (...) Knowledge results from the assimilation and connecting of information through experience, most often through apprenticeship or mentoring. (...) Most of the people in the world remain out of the knowledge loop and off the information grid. One billion people on the Internet means there are five and a half billion people who aren’t on it. Bringing those people into the global conversation is essential to achieving true democratization of knowledge. But simply giving everyone access to e-mail and Google will never in itself flatten the earth. Until our governments, NGOs, schools, corporations, and other institutions embrace the idea that knowledge – not information – is the key to prosperity, most of the world’s people will remain a world apart.

Why do I blog this? I fully agree with the distinction between information/knowledge; it's often a misconception, especially in the domain of educational technologies.