May 24, 2022

NISO Approves New Work Item on Georgraphic Info Standard

From the National Information Standards Organization:

NISO Voting Members have approved a new work item to develop a U.S. profile of ISO 3166, Codes for the Representation of Names of Countries and their Subdivisions and a working group is being formed for the project.

This proposed standard will transition the Geopolitical Entities, Names, and Codes (GENC) Standard, developed by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in 2012, from a government standard to a U.S. National Standard.

The GENC standard replaced FIPS Publication 10-4, Standard for Countries, Dependencies, Areas of Special Sovereignty, and Their Principal Administrative Divisions, which was withdrawn by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in 2008.

“The current GENC standard is itself a “profile” of the ISO 3166-1 standard,” explains Trent Palmer, Geographer with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency who submitted the proposal to NISO. “It incorporates some needs specific to the United States, such as national sovereignty recognition policy restrictions; the requirement to use names of geopolitical entities that have been approved by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (U.S. Public Law 80-242), but which may not be recognized by the body that manages ISO 3166; and the need to identify and recognize geopolitical entities not identified in ISO 3166.”

“Because the GENC is a government standard, its current consensus body does not include any non-governmental voting members,” states Nettie Lagace, NISO’s Associate Director for Programs. “By moving this standard to NISO and making it an American National Standard, its approval consensus body and ongoing development and maintenance can include a wider base of stakeholders—industry, libraries beyond the Library of Congress, academia, and system vendors—many of whom are impacted by the standard. Adoption of such a profile will ease technical communications between industry, the federal government, and the international community in the transmission of country-related data.”

More background on the GENC standard and the need to differentiate some codes from ISO 3166 can be found in the new work item proposal.

Access ISO 3166 (via Online Browsing Platform) and Country Code Glossary

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.