Having written the below post in 2012, organisations such as ISO have since addressed the needs of business/government through subscription services such as ISO’s Online Collections:
‘An online collection is a set of standards available online. With this product you are sure to always have the most up to date content. When you buy an online collection you pay for a yearly or a monthly subscription to the standards, which are available to read online via your library. This annual subscription service allows you to download the most recent, official lists of country codes and/or subdivisions not to mention formerly used codes in one convenient location. The collection contains the codes from Part 1, 2 and 3 of ISO 3166 in 3 formats: .XML, .CSV and .XLS for easy integration into your own systems. You will also be notified when changes are made so you can download the latest versions. In this way, you can be sure that your database is always using the most up-to-date information from an official and ISO-supported source.”
The original post on this point included below:
While tools such as Informatica Data Quality and the Informatica Power Center Reference Table Manager go some way to helping centrally manage reference data, organisations such as Informatica haven’t yet taken the lead by providing international organisations with a central store of reliable reference data to connect to through web services or similar (let alone providing support for locked-down organisations to access such a central store, save through software patches). As at 2012, Informatica provides some reference data through Power Center, but hasn’t yet created a subscription service.
It’s a shame, as it would be an excellent business opportunity for Informatica, to advance their competition with organisations such as Royal Mail and Hopewiser in providing a centrally subscribable post office address file service cascadable to their customers, by providing bank branch details, international currencies, court details, and even basic country codes.
Similarly, the UK’s laudable http://data.gov.uk project, in relying on Big Society and dwindling government departments to populate and maintain data, has not yet delivered a central repository of cross-government reference data to which government organisations might connect and reduce the duplication of effort and inaccuracy present in their discrete organisations.
One quick win for UK government and business in any country, would be a central web service subscription to the United Nations’ 3-numeric country code. Many organisations today use their own out-dated in-house country codes developed before common standards became … common … while others use the ISO 3166-1 standard for which they pay a fee, which is derived in any case from the UN Statistics Division. The correct group to publish and maintain this would be the United Nations organisation itself, but for now they simply publish to their website at:
In my opinion, the UN 3-numeric country code is preferable to other country codes by virtue of it being:
- Free of charge
- Numeric, and hence language script independent, and so more likely to ‘play well with international systems’ now and henceforth (script independence is cited as an advantage at the ISO site as follows ‘contrary to the Latin characters of the alphabetic codes, the numbers used in the numeric-3 code are also used in the Cyrillic, Japanese or Greek scripts’)
- The source for the ISO country codes in any case
The competing country code sources are the ISO 3166-1 2-alpha country code, and 3-alpha and 3-numeric versions, for which organisations have to pay, and which are based on the United Nations source anyway (as per an extract from ISO’s previous site content in 2012, since removed – ‘New names and codes are added when the United Nations publish new names in either their Terminology Bulletin Country Names or in the Country and Region Codes for Statistical Use maintained by the United Nations Statistics Division. There is no other way of having new country names included in ISO 3166-1. So if a name is not on these lists it will not be incorporated into ISO 3166-1.’). To learn more about the ISO country codes visit their website at: http://www.iso.org/iso/home/store/catalogue_tc/catalogue_detail.htm?csnumber=63547