Mistakes in data entry can earn you an award or cause you to lose an election. These are two contrasting but real-life situations that made news recently.
The first case is that of an Oakville student of St. Ignatius of Loyola Secondary School who with an average score of 95.6 percent was declared the winner of the Governor General Bronze Medal award for the highest academic average. The Halton Catholic District School Board (HCDSB) that announced the award later discovered that there was another student with a higher average of 96.75 percent. The Governor General’s office resolved the situation by honoring both students from the local high school.
This incident was the result of a data entry error made at the school. The academic average is calculated based on the final marks scored by the students in class 11 and 12. Students with a grade average between 95.3-98.8 per cent are honored with bronze medal.
Earlier this month, the Star reported that Elections Ontario declared that PC incumbent Gila Martow had won the Thornhill riding after a transposition data entry error was discovered during the official tabulation Friday. The Elections Ontario website had initially declared Liberal challenger Sandra Yeung Racco as the winner by a lead of 85 votes. But the discovery of what was described as a “rare data entry error” had Martow celebrating instead of Racco. After the official tabulation and review of the reports for accuracy, Elections Ontario reported that Martow actually overtook Yeung Racco 21,868 to 21,783 – a margin of 85 votes.
When people typing in numbers for hours at a stretch, as in these two cases, they can easily make wrong entries or transpose numbers. Two types of errors can occur – transcription errors and transposition errors. Transcription errors are those that are caused by fast typing. The operator hits the wrong key, makes a typo or enters the information wrongly. The same information may be entered twice.
Transposition errors occur when numbers are being entered. Instead of entering 1256, the number may be entered as 1526 or something else. These errors are common when the operator typing fast and entering many numbers – as in the case of fast-paced result-gathering process on Ontario election night.
Such errors in data inputting can have disastrous consequences especially in fields such as healthcare, law and business. Setting up a proper mechanism for data validation and proofreading can help detect and correct the errors before they cause trouble.