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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/open-standards-for-government/country-codes
Standards to be used: ISO 3166-1:2013
When entering an address or affiliation for an organisation, users need be able to name a country, province or state in a reliable way. Use ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 codes to denote an international country, with the exception of UK nations which should use extended codes. The selected standard must be used when a country code is used in new systems.
2. User need approach
Anyone publishing government documents needs a list of codes which can be used in publications to name a country reliably and consistently. The list should include sub codes for the states and provinces of a country. This will address the problem in datasets of multiple names and spellings for the same country.
3. Achieving the expected benefits
Using a stable list will enable the building of a canonical register of country codes, along with the dates when they applied. This will benefit those who need to search for and reference country specific data by enabling the use of a single code. The improved quality in data could have an economic benefit. Building and maintaining such a register is beyond the scope of the open standards process.
4. Functional needs
The code should make sense to users, so should have the English and indigenous name, and common aliases associated with it. Users should be able to identify states which no longer exist, for example ‘USSR’, so each code should ideally have the dates during which the code is or was valid. The list of countries published by ISO 3166 is a superset of those which may be used in government publications.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) list of approved English language names, and descriptive terms for countries states the use of country names by Her Majesty’s Government.
5. Other steps to achieving interoperability
Users should be aware that whilst ISO 3166 strives for backwards compatibility, codes may be reused to represent another country after being deprecated for 15 years. The meaning of a code should therefore be treated as temporal, especially when inferring borders, flags, political structure, and other attributes of the country indicated by the code.