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Information Integrity: An Edge

Paul Prabhaker
Friday, February 28, 2003
Paul Prabhaker
“The American economy—our economy—is built on confidence. The conviction that our free enterprise system will continue to be the most powerful and promising in the world…All investment is an act of faith, and faith is earned by integrity.”

President George W. Bush
July 09, 2002

THE GLOBAL ECONOMY, TO A LARGE EXTENT, IS built on the power of the American marketplace. A major strength of America’s business empire that makes it so dynamic and resilient is the basic relationship that exists between customers, investors and businesses. Working together, the market synergy created by the three results in extraordinary economic wealth. Working apart from each other, American markets can look very ordinary, as in some recent cases. Information is the glue that connects them. Managing the flow of information is the only way to combine the various parts and create a market entity that is bigger and better than the sum of the parts. In other words, much of the American business mystique is based on an implicit trust in the information that flows across, through and around businesses. Simply put, information is the DNA of the contemporary markets. Recent events have provided ample evidence that “bad” information can be extraordinarily costly to businesses, customers, investors and society.

Consider this. What do these have in common: customers feeling ripped off, shareholders feeling cheated, business partners feeling they’ve been taken advantage of? All of them used judgments that turned out to be faulty. Judgments, one might add, that were based on bad information. Bad information results in a no-win situation for all concerned—customers, investors and businesses—and destroys economic wealth. Good information, on the other hand, enhances the synergy and creates more economic wealth. The marketplace is a meeting ground between customers’ expectations and vendors’ promises, sparked by shareholder investments. Business deals go sour when these expectations and promises are not aligned. Accurate, consistent and reliable information, made available to the right party at the right time, can shape and project expectations and promises in the intended manner.

So, the question becomes how do we ensure that the information present is good? In fact, how do we even begin to define good information? The goodness of information can be measured by the integrity of the information. Information integrity is a futuristic concept that goes well beyond traditional data quality, security, privacy, etc. The three pillars of information integrity are accuracy, consistency and reliability. If the information concerned lacks any one of the three properties, then it does not have the integrity needed and bad things may happen.

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