Information Technology and Library Science

Wisdom: The Missing Dimension in Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

The levels of knowledge hierarchy (i.e., data, information, knowledge, and wisdom), are described in the Qur’an, the ahadith, and the literature produced during Islamic civilization’s Golden Age. They also have been discussed by western and non-Muslim scholars. However, while implementing and using information and communication technology (ICT), only the first three levels are currently being explored and utilized. Wisdom has not been discussed to any great extent. ICT has designed systems to assist us and has improved our life and work. However, such tools as decision-support systems and executive information systems comprise only data, information, and knowledge.

Comprehensiveness does not guarantee the possession of wisdom. Taking things apart is knowledge; putting things together is wisdom. Muslim scholars of the Golden Age analyzed data, drew relationships and interpreted data to create information, identified and determined the pattern to represent knowledge, and understood the foundational principles for the patterns to implement wisdom. Wisdom must be included if ICT is to be complete. People, organizations, and the nation must strive for wisdom as the ultimate goal: from an information society to a knowledge society to a wisdom society, and from information workers to knowledge workers to wisdom workers.


Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
– T. S. Eliot, The Rock.

Wisdom is an essential requirement for information and communication technology (ICT) professionals in designing, developing, and implementing better computer systems and communication within organizations. In fact, wisdom is not a new dimension in ICT; rather, it is the highest hierarchy of data ?? information ?? knowledge ?? wisdom. The development of ICT can be seen at each hierarchical level. First comes data processing, data centers, data workers, and even communication with data (e.g., Morse code). Then, people upgrade themselves and their systems by introducing information centers, information workers, the information society, and communicate and exchange information through letter, fax, and e-mail.

Now, most countries are concerned with knowledge centers, knowledge workers, a knowledge economy, and a knowledge society. We share and learn knowledge through the Internet and e-learning. Given this, it is time to move forward and discuss wisdom centers, wisdom workers, and a wisdom society, as well as to explore communication systems at the wisdom level. If wisdom is placed in proper perspective in ICT, most of the problems and misunderstandings in system development and information strategic planning could be easily understood and solved.

However, wisdom has not been discussed and explored to any great extent, especially in the implementation and use of ICT in planning, organizing, and decision making. In fact, only a few articles and materials even discuss it, and those that are related mostly to knowledge management and organizational strategy. Among the very few researchers who directly discuss wisdom in relation to ICT are Jenkins, Por and Molloy, and Lucardie.1 The reason for this could be that this topic is still in its infancy.

Ideally, an information system requires input, transformation, and output processes, as well as a high user involvement, and comprises the four levels of the knowledge hierarchy (viz., data, information, knowledge, and wisdom). Moreover, the relationship between data information, knowledge, and wisdom from the ICT and the Islamic perspectives must be understood.

This paper discusses wisdom as the most important level in the knowledge hierarchy, and why it is missing in many organizations’ design, implementation, and use of ICT. This research involved an extensive review of research reports, opinion papers, conference papers, and system reports on applying wisdom in ICT. It also explored the definition and development of wisdom in the context of ICT, relevant sources that discuss wisdom from different perspectives, and ways for achieving wisdom in designing, implementing, and using ICT.

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