Not All Data Is Created Equal: Why Data Quality Matters More in the Age of AI

In 1942, during the chaos of World War II, the Battle of Midway underscored the transformative power of accurate information. U.S. Navy cryptographers, having cracked the Japanese code, discovered plans for an imminent attack on Midway Atoll. Armed with this precise intelligence, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz orchestrated a strategic ambush that would change the course of the war in the Pacific.

In stark contrast, Japanese intelligence faltered. Misled by flawed data, they believed U.S. carriers remained docked at Pearl Harbor, leaving them unprepared for the fierce resistance they encountered. As the enemy fleet approached, U.S. forces, equipped with superior information, lay in wait. The result was a devastating ambush that sank four Japanese carriers, marking a pivotal shift in the war’s momentum.

If things had gone differently, we may have seen the following impacts:

• A prolonged war

• Loss of dominance in the Pacific

• Shift in naval power

• Loss of morale

• A change in the terms of peace

Potentially, we may live in a very different world today. This historic battle vividly illustrates how high-quality, accurate data can lead to triumph, while poor data can spell disaster.

The Competitive Edge of Quality Information

In today’s world, the value of high-quality information remains paramount. The phrase “data is the new oil” underscores the importance of data, yet understanding what makes data valuable is less widespread. As AI continues to advance, the nuance of data quality becomes even more critical.

The Essence of Good Information

High-quality information stands out because it is tailored to the specific needs of the user. This has driven many tech companies to enhance personalization, aiming to provide users with information that is directly relevant to them. But what exactly makes information “good”?

1. Accuracy: Information should be correct and a true reflection of reality.

2. Completeness: Like a puzzle, all pieces should be present to see the full picture.

3. Consistency: Information should be consistent across different sources.

4. Timeliness: Information should be current, just like a weather forecast or daily news.

5. Validity: Information should be in the right format and make sense.

6. Reliability: You should be able to depend on information every time you use it.

7. Uniqueness: Every piece of information should be distinct and useful.

8. Accessibility: Information should be easily accessible to those who need it.

9. Interoperability: Different systems and apps should share information seamlessly.

10. Credibility: Information should come from trustworthy sources.

11. Contextual Relevance: The value of information depends on the context, including time, place, and the user’s specific needs and goals.

A Historical Perspective on Data Quality: The Semmelweis Example

In the mid-19th century, Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis faced a perplexing problem: a high mortality rate from childbed fever in a Vienna General Hospital maternity ward. He observed that doctors moved directly from autopsies to patient examinations without washing their hands, spreading infections in the process.

By instituting a handwashing policy with a chlorine solution, Semmelweis drastically reduced the mortality rate from 18% to less than 2%. Despite the clear success, his findings were initially dismissed by his peers due to entrenched medical beliefs.

Semmelweis’s story highlights the life-saving potential of high-quality information in healthcare, paving the way for modern hygiene practices. His work underscores the critical role accurate data plays in improving health outcomes.


From the strategic victories of World War II to groundbreaking medical discoveries, history teaches us that the quality of information can determine the difference between success and failure. In our data-driven world, understanding and leveraging the nuances of high-quality information remains a crucial competitive advantage. As we continue to embrace AI and other advanced technologies, the importance of accurate, reliable, and contextually relevant data cannot be overstated.