Information as a Resource

An overview of the characteristics of information as a resource in the information age

It was about a quarter of a century ago when the use of computers and telecommunications became interlocked and helped to form the information industry. The greatest feature of this industry being the increase in humanities thinking power, and the power to organize. This information industry is overlapping with other industries, and becomes a part of them as well.

Information is a resource on its own, as well as an asset to others. It falls within the resource hierarchy which starts with data, which leads to information, coming together as knowledge, and resulting in wisdom. Data can be defined as the undigested observations, or unvarnished facts. Information follows as the organized form of data. Knowledge is then the organized information which is internalized by its user and integrated with other bits and fields resulting from experience, study, or intuition . The final step is the integration of the knowledge into wisdom, which is information which has been made useful by theory relating the bits of knowledge to each other.

There are six inherent characteristics of information as a resource:

1. Information is expandable: it is recognized that for specific purposes information may deplete, but in general, the more we have, the more we use, and the more useful it becomes. Information is certainly not scarce, and is available in profusion. T his concept of "information-rich" may not necessarily be good, but may instead mean being "swamped". There are limits to the growth of information, but they lie in the time and capacity of people.

2. Information is compressible: It is possible to concentrate, integrate, and summarize information for easier handling.

3. Information is substitutable: Information can and does replace land, labor, and capital. It is the use of computers and telecommunications that aids in this phenomenon.

4. Information is transportable: Information can be tapped into just about anywhere; this has led to the idea of being remote as much more difficult to achieve since people and information can be taken to the remotest of places.

5. Information is diffusive: There tends to be an ability for information to leak. This leakage allows us to have more, and more of us to have it.

6. Information is shareable: No exchange transaction of information can take place, only sharing transactions, and this leads to an entire sharing environment.

These six characteristics of information cause it to be not like any other resource that we as humans have had previous experience with. It is not subject to the laws of thermodynamics that we are used to applying to resources in the past. We as users, are also not able to own information like we are able to own resources such as land and capital. Information is, however, far more accessible that these resources, and has become our key resource. The quality, relevance, and usefulness of information does depend on who uses it, how astutely, and for what purposes.

Our entrance into the information age has had many impacts on our way of life. One of these being the changes in the work force. The jobs and functions performed by the workers are becoming increasingly information oriented. We are now working in an information economy -- with information as the key resource. But similar to other resources, information must be produced, consciously used, and effectively deployed. It is important to be aware of the characteristics of our newest resource, so that we are able to use it efficiently, and benefit from it, as well as not abuse it.


  1. (Cleveland,1985)

  2. (Marchand,1986)

Compiled by

Joy Grillon Last updated on 11/03/94