Digitization changes how information and materials are used, stored, shared and managed.

Transforming analog information to digital data is like transforming ice into steam.

  • A paper version of a nonprofit’s tax form stored in file cabinet is like an ice cube: it exists only in one physical place, and its use and access can be tightly controlled.
  • A scanned version of the same tax form stored on an organization’s shared hard drive is like water: it is more fluid than ice yet still easily contained and controlled.
  • An open-access database of tax forms that are searchable, downloadable, and sharable is like steam: it is quickly dispersed and hard to contain or control.

Once the form of data changes, managing it requires different tools and approaches.
Next: explore four principles four principles to guide civil society’s use of digital data.