The Value of Knowing that You Do Not Know


  • Gil Greenstein
  • Niv Ahituv



Information Economics, Information Structures, Blackwell Theorem, Knowledge Management, Data Retrieval, System Accessibility, Data Availability


The value of knowing about data availability and system accessibility is analyzed through theoretical models of Information Economics. When a user places an inquiry for information, it is important for the user to learn whether the system is not accessible or the data is not available, rather than not have any response. In reality, various outcomes can be provided by the system: nothing will be displayed to the user (e.g., a traffic light that does not operate, a browser that keeps browsing, a telephone that does not answer); a random noise will be displayed (e.g., a traffic light that displays random signals, a browser that provides disorderly results, an automatic voice message that does not clarify the situation); a special signal indicating that the system is not operating (e.g., a blinking amber indicating that the traffic light is down, a browser responding that the site is unavailable, a voice message regretting to tell that the service is not available). This article develops a model to assess the value of the information for the user in such situations by employing the information structure model prevailing in Information Economics. Examples related to data accessibility in centralized and in distributed systems are provided for illustration.