What is data processing?
Data processing is the process of converting raw data into meaningful information. Data conversion to reach the final result, obtaining information, goes through different steps. In other words, it can be considered an information processing.
Data is manipulated to produce results that lead to a resolution of a problem or improvement of an existing situation. Similar to a production process, it follows a cycle where the input (raw data) are fed to a process (computer systems) to produce output (information).
Generally, organizations employ computer systems to carry out a series of operations on the data to present, interpret, or obtain information. The process includes activities like data entry, summary, calculation, storage, etc. A useful and informative output is presented in various appropriate forms such as diagrams, reports, graphics, etc.
The stages of the data processing cycle
Also referred to as data gathering or fact-finding, it involves looking for crucial facts needed for processing. Methods of data collection include interviews, the use of questionnaires, observation, etc. In most cases the data is collected after sampling. Sampling is the process of selecting representative elements (e.g. people, organizations) from an entire group (population) of interest. Some of the tools that help in the data collection include source documents (such as forms) data capture devices (such as the digital camera), etc.
Preparation is the transcription (or conversion) of data from a source document to a machine-readable form. This may not be the case for all input devices. Data collected using devices that directly capture data in digital form do not require transcription.
Input is the process where the collected data is converted from a human-readable form to a machine-readable form. The conversion takes place in the input device.
Processing is the transformation of the input data to a more meaningful output (information). Some of the operations performed on the data include: calculations, comparing values and sorting.
The desired output also referred to as information can be distributed to the target group. Distribution is making information available to those who need it. This process may involve electronic presentation over the radio or television, distribution of hard copies, broadcasting messages over the internet or mobile phones, etc.
The final activity in the data processing cycle is the storage of the information for future use.
Data processing services
Form and document processing
Data formatting services
Data DE duplication
Insurance claims processing
Market research forms processing
Credit card processing
Mailing list compilation
Text and web data processing
Scanning and indexing, etc.
Manual, mechanical and electronic data processing
Data processing can be done manually, mechanically and electronically:
Manual data processing
In manual data processing, most tasks are done manually with a pen and paper. For example in a busy office, incoming tasks (input) are stacked in the ‘tray’(output). The processing of each task involves a person using the brain in order to respond to queries. The processed information (output) is then distributed to the people who need it or stored in a file cabinet.
Mechanical data processing
Mechanical devices were developed to help in the automation of manual tasks. Examples of mechanical devices include: the typewriter, printing press, and weaving looms. Initially, these devices did not have electronic intelligence.
Electronic data processing
For a long time, scientists have researched how to develop machines or devices that would stimulate some form of human intelligence during data and information processing. This was made possible with the development of electronic programmable devices such as computers. The arrival of microprocessor technology has greatly enhanced data processing efficiency and capability. Some of the micro-processor controlled devices include: computers, mobile phones, calculators, etc.