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Ambiguities in Translation of Information and Knowledge Concepts in COBIT 5

By Ahmet Efe, Ph.D., CISA, COBIT 5 Foundation

COBIT Focus | 12 September 2016

Data, information, knowledge, business intelligence and wisdom (DIKIW) are sequential, theoretical and conceptual stations of understanding. Some researchers assert that business intelligence (or intelligence) is different than knowledge and wisdom. Each concept of DIKIW has its place in guiding individuals and legal entities to take proper action to save more in assets while losing less in resources. They are also the most difficult issues for practitioners to differentiate within a certain context without study of and reference to pertinent academic research. Even in the COBIT 5 framework, it is not easy to distinguish these concepts.1

After the release of COBIT 5 in 2012, ISACA initiated translations of the framework into other languages by collaborating with chapters and volunteer contributors. Translation of the Turkish version of COBIT 5 was undertaken first by the Istanbul (Turkey) Chapter and, later, continued by the Ankara (Turkey) Chapter. Although there had been collaborative work by chapter members, due to some ambiguities in technical descriptions and differing translations in certain contexts, the translations need to be revised based on feedback from practitioners. Considering the possibility of similar mistranslations of COBIT in other languages it is wise to bring the issue to the attention of practitioners. This argument is based on the assertion that the common body of knowledge of information is not yet mature enough to be well understood in all translated languages.

Among the concepts of “data,” “information,” “knowledge,” “intelligence” and “wisdom,” there are mistranslations that do not reflect the true meaning of each concept from a linguistic point of view. “Information” and “knowledge” still seem to be intertwined or not fully differentiated. Such translation difficulties can create misunderstanding by readers and/or practitioners.

While trying to adopt COBIT 5 in the Ankara Development Agency, it became apparent that some troublesome issues need to be revised regarding different perceptions and usage of the words “knowledge” and “information” in the Turkish translations of various COBIT 5 publications. For example, in the Turkish translation of the COBIT 5 framework, BAI08 Manage knowledge is translated as “bilgi birikimini yönet,” which means “knowledge accumulation.” “BAI08 Manage knowledge helps ensure that users are enabled to use systems effectively” is translated as “BAI08 Bilgi birikimini yönet süreçleri, kullanıcıların sistemleri etkin bir şekilde kullanabilmesini sağlayacak bilgiler içerir.”2 In this translation, instead of meaning “knowledge,” the translation of “knowledge accumulation” is used. “Information” is always translated as “bilgi” which is the translation of “knowledge”. Therefore, it is clear that there is not a separation between “knowledge” and “information” in Turkish translations. However, in some parts of the translation, the correct words are used: “BAI08 Bilgiyi yönet.” There are multiple similar mistranslations throughout. In some translated sections, “knowledge” is translated as “bilgi,” which is the correct Turkish word. The Turkish translation of the process reference model (figure 2) BAI08 Manage knowledge (figure 1) uses the words “BAI08 Bilgiyi yönet,” which is the correct translation in Turkish.

Figure 1—COBIT Build, Acquire and Implement Process Reference Model

Source: ISACA, COBIT 5, USA, 2012

Figure 2—Turkish Translation of COBIT Build, Acquire and Implement Process Reference Model

Source: ISACA, Kurumsal BT Yönetişimi ve Yönetimi için Bir İş Çerçevesi, USA, 2012

However, when comparing figures 3 and 4, one can see that “knowledge” is translated as “bilgi birikimi,” which, again, means “knowledge accumulation.”

Figure 3—COBIT 5 Metadata—Information Cycle

Source: ISACA, COBIT 5, USA, 2012

Figure 4—Turkish Translation of COBIT 5 Metadata—Information Cycle

Source: ISACA, Kurumsal BT Yönetişimi ve Yönetimi için Bir İş Çerçevesi, USA, 2012

The same mistranslation is repeated in translation of “information” as shown in figures 5 and 6 in which information is translated as “bilgi” instead of “enformasyon.”

Figure 5—COBIT Enabler: Information

Source: ISACA, COBIT 5, USA, 2012

Figure 6—Turkish Translation of COBIT Enabler: Information

Source: ISACA, Kurumsal BT Yönetişimi ve Yönetimi için Bir İş Çerçevesi, USA, 2012

In figures 5 and 6, “information” within the phrases “COBIT 5 Enabler: Information” and “Define Information Attributes” is translated with the word “bilgi,” meaning “knowledge,” rather than the correct “enformasyon” in Turkish.

Taking all this into consideration, it is evident that, unless a proper translation is released, there will be difficulty in understanding the context of information and knowledge, which will negatively affect the understanding and correct application of the COBIT 5 Information enabler.

If DIKIW concepts are used interchangeably causing confusion and incomprehension, then implementing goals, activities, indicators, inputs, outputs and linking of other processes defined within each process become difficult for practitioners. Whatever is not clear in the minds of practitioners is at risk of being undervalued and neglected. Considering the paradigm shift caused by COBIT 5’s innovative principles and enablers that facilitate integrating business and IT processes in a holistic, end-to-end approach, there should not be even an iota of conceptual ambiguity, at least in the theoretical explanations and translations of COBIT 5 and its family of products. Therefore, theories, concepts, explanations and translations need to be congruent and in conformity in the minds of practitioners. For example “information attributes” are translated as “bilgi öznitelikleri.” This is because, in the minds of translators and reviewers, the separation of knowledge and information is vague. For this reason, there should be some sort of tangible, concrete and material side of management practices in the process definitions of enablers in the upcoming version of COBIT 5 that define the meaning of concepts to real-life implementation at the enterprise level.

The source of the errors is found in Turkish and English dictionaries, which contain different translations of “knowledge” and “information,” as shown in figure 7. Quite naturally, this is confusing to translators. It is because there are different translations of “knowledge” and “information” from different sources.

Figure 7—Different Turkish Translations of “Information” and “Knowledge”

Translation Source



Cyber-Bilkent3 Bilgi Bilgi
TBD Bili, bilgi, enformasyon Bilgi
NETDATA4 Güdübilim
Linux Bilişim5 Bilgi
Bilişim Terimleri6 Bilgi
TÜBA Bilgi, bilinti, enformasyon Bilgi
ZARGAN7 Haber, bilgi, istihbarat Bilgi, malumat, anlayış, bilim
TURENG8 Bilgi, danışma, ilmi vukuf, iddia,malumat, istihbarat, bili, bildirişim, enformasyon Bilgi, ilim, bili, malumat, bilgi darağcığı, bilim, tecrübe, anlama, kanaat, Irfan, bilgi birikimi, vukuf
SESLİ9 Bilgi edinme, danışma, enformasyon, istihbarat, haber, malumat, bili, vukuf Kanaat, bili, bilgi birikimi, enformasyon, haber, bilim, malumat, Irfan, tecrübe

Source: A. Efe. Reprinted with permission.

As seen in figure 7, there are different translations of “information” and “knowledge.” In fact, in some of the references, there is no translation for “knowledge.” This is evidence of the lack of maturity of the common body of knowledge of IT terminology. Among the translation sources, the references most esteemed for accuracy, reliability and validity of technical translations are TBD, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) devoted to IT guidance in Turkey, and TÜBA, an academic organization working to uphold scientific education in Turkey. For the translation of “information,” TDB and TÜBA provide similar results, but they include “enformasyon,” the direct Turkish translation for “information,” only as a third choice, after two other words more aligned with “knowledge.”

It is wise to refer to academic literature to provide solutions with a scientific point of view. How “information” and “knowledge” are defined in academic research becomes crucial in deciding the correct wording of the Turkish translation of these concepts.

In fact, not only in Turkish literature, but also in other literature, many sources discuss the transformation of data into information and vice versa. It can be said that the differences between the two are theoretically and conceptually distinguished, but not yet accepted by all. It is commonly known that data inherently contain no meaning; they are but bare signals, inputs, piles of raw numeric or alphanumeric values. However, information is often defined as “data with meaning” or “processed data.” The original meaning of the verb “inform” incorporates the concepts of “giving form to” something or “giving news to someone.”10 Thus, for data to become information, they must be shaped or structured from the raw material by the receiver. By processing the substance of data in a useful way, the data become information, just as processed materials can become a useful product that then affords new and beneficial interactions. When information is gained from data, it becomes possible to make sense out of it. But how is information converted to become knowledge and vice versa? The process is explained as, “Information is the flow, and knowledge is the stock…knowledge is formed by accumulating processed information. Thus information is a necessary medium or material for eliciting and constructing knowledge.”11

Relying on different definitions from dictionaries for the correct translations of highly technical words and concepts such as “information” and “knowledge” can cause misleading, perplexing and ambiguous translations. Therefore, translators or reviewers should refer to academic research and analytical studies in literature. It is now evident in Turkish academic literature that the translation of “information” is “enformasyon” and “knowledge” is “bilgi,” as proven in multiple sources and studies of Turkish literature.12, 13, 14, 15

Ahmet Efe, Ph.D., CISA, COBIT 5 Foundation

Is an internal audit executive at the Ankara Development Agency in Turkey. He has worked as an inspector, auditor, chief procurement officer and coordinator in various public bodies such as the Turkish Ministry of Forestry and the Turkish National Agency. He contributed to the Turkish translation of COBIT 5 Implementation. Efe can be reached at aefe@ankaraka.org.tr.


1 Efe, A.; “ Unearthing and Enhancing Intelligence and Wisdom Within the COBIT 5 Governance of Information Model”, COBIT Focus, 18 April 2016
2 ISACA, COBIT 5, USA, 2012, Turkish translation, s. 60
3 IT Dictionary of Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey
4 Terimler Sozlugu , “Knowledge
5 Independent Online IT Dictionary
6 Bilisim Terimlari Sozlugu, IT dictionary of Ministry of Education, Turkey
7 Zargan, “Information
8 Tureng, “Information
9 Sesli Souzuk, “Information
10 Hey, J.; The Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom Chain: The Metaphorical Link, OceanTeacher Digital Library of the International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange, December 2004
11 Ibid .
12 Bozkurt, A.; “Network Society and Knowledge,” Türk Kütüphaneciliği, 2014, p. 510-525
13 Kalkan, V. D.; “Örgütsel Öğrenme ve Bilgi Yönetimi,” Elektronik Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi, 2006, p. 22-36
14 İraz, R.; İşletmelerde Bilgi Yönetiminin Yenilik ve Rekabet Gücü Üzerindeki Etkiler, Atatürk Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Dergisi , 2005
15 Durna, U.; Y Demirel; “Understanding of Knowledge in Knowledge Management,” Erciyes Üniversitesi İİBF Dergisi, 2008, p. 129-156