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The Political Spaghetti of Our Planet

weather: clear
outside: 15.4°C
mood: ...
A small recurring theme of the last few weeks of my life has been: global service industry partners building enterprise software solutions at the mercy of the never-ending political spaghetti that is our planet.


We have to know exactly where the borders are, what the implications are for compliance and international trade regulations.

Far from frustrated, I've been having the time of my life, digging and reading about the different regions, histories, currencies, conflicts, resolutions, turmoils and triumphs of the people involved. I do have to stay focussed on finding what the current situation is, what country codes are in effect and what business rules must apply, bringing incompatibilities and issues to our stakeholders with possible workarounds or getting permission to not support certain things...

It makes my head spin, but in that amusement park ride kind of way. And I'm being paid to have this much fun =D

The difficulty is that the software is based off of ISO Country Codes, but the business rules don't necessarily apply that way. All territories "belonging" to a country might be considered "the same country". That means we have to map multiple country codes to the same rules.

The island of Saint Martin has been split into two halves. Saint Martin (North half) belongs to the French and Sint Maarten (South half) belongs to the Dutch.

Saint Martin (pronounced "SAN mar-TAN") is a part of the French South Territories (French West Indies) under the ISO Country Code TF. People who live here would select "French South Territories" in the Country drop-down list and enter "Saint Martin" in the penultimate line in their address.

Sint Maarten is a part of the Netherlands Antilles (territories of the Netherlands in the same area) under the ISO Country Code AN. People who live here would select "Netherlands Antilles" in the Country drop-down list and enter "Saint Martin" in the penultimate line in their address.

Bonaire and Curaçao are also a part of the Netherlands Antilles. Technically, Aruba is also a part of this group of islands, but Aruba is an autonomous state and has its own country code.

I haven't been following the news on Kosovo lately, but unless the United Nations has recognized them as a sovereign state and ISO has issued them a country code, they are still under Serbia. There's not a lot we can do about this.

United States Minor Outlying Islands are all those islands strewn all over in the Pacific Ocean, like Howland Island, Baker Island, Kingman Reef, etc. The country code is "UM".

Guam, American Samoa, Turks and Caicos Islands, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, are all considered a part of the United States in various arrangements. Each of them have their own country codes.

There are other regions that are territories of other countries too. Christmas Island (Australia), British Virgin Islands (UK), etc. Protectorates, territories, autonomous dependencies, free association states... I'm getting better at remembering all the different ones and what kind of government arrangement they have.

There are also cases where different business rules apply to portions or regions of the same country and there's no way for the software to support that without some significant re-design work.

Cyprus is split between Greece and Turkey. *sigh* Greece and Turkey seem to have been at each others' throats, forever and ever, since the dawn of time. There is still only one country code for the two parts of the island of Cyprus, but they really need to differentiate them because the two portions operate completely separately.

American military posts in foreign territories are considered "States" within the country "United States" in terms of the mailing address.

  • Armed Forces America (except U.S. and Canada)
  • Armed Forces Europe (Europe, Middle East, Africa)
  • Armed Forces Pacific

But because it is on foreign soil, the business rules for the target country have to apply. This makes it interesting because how the hell can we tell where "AE" is supposed to be? Europe? Middle East? or Africa? There are vastly different business rules for different countries in those regions. We might not be able to support this at all.

The Federated States of Micronesia is a fun one. They are considered a sovereign state and their ISO Country Code is FM. But they were (are?) a United Nations Trust Territory under US administration and, thus, are listed in the United States list of states (along with Washington, Oregon, California, etc.). We just have to make the stakeholders aware that this is a potential hole in their business rules.

And then there are the nitpicky things.

"Viet Nam" is not a misspelling. No, it is NOT "Vietnam", one word. It is spelled as two words. Always. No exceptions. Says the International Standards Organization and the United Nations. *BLOW RASPBERRY*

Laos is actually called Lao People's Democratic Republic. "Laos is missing in your country list"... uh, it kinda boggles me that they couldn't find it because my list was alphabetized... they couldn't find "Laos", but didn't see "Lao" either? O_o

I was also asked in a conference call the other day, why we have a country called "Other". It's there in case you're an astronaut and live on the International Space Station.

*cue laugh track*

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Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
pne
Sep. 9th, 2007 01:10 pm (UTC)
It's always fun trying to find England in a country list -- sometimes it'll be under "England", sometimes under "Great Britain", and sometimes under "United Kingdom".

Cyprus is split between Greece and Turkey. *sigh* Greece and Turkey seem to have been at each others' throats, forever and ever, since the dawn of time. There is still only one country code for the two parts of the island of Cyprus, but they really need to differentiate them because the two portions operate completely separately.

That's really the case everywhere that what is de jure one country (according to the local government, at least) is de facto more than one -- whether one country invaded another or took control or whethere there's a local movement for self-government.

What about Nagorno-Karabakh, for example? Armenia, Azerbaijan, or independent? Or Transnistria? etc. etc.
pne
Sep. 9th, 2007 01:12 pm (UTC)
Viet Nam
"Viet Nam" is not a misspelling. No, it is NOT "Vietnam", one word. It is spelled as two words. Always. No exceptions. Says the International Standards Organization and the United Nations. *BLOW RASPBERRY*

Now this seems bizarre to me, much like Côte d'Ivoire being the official English name of The Country Formerly Known As Ivory Coast.

Either you use the local name (which is two words but needs a couple more diacritics: Việt Nam), or you use an English name (which I would make "Vietnam"). "Viet Nam" seems neither fish nor flesh.
bride
Sep. 9th, 2007 05:09 pm (UTC)
Re: Viet Nam
We go by what the United Nations has: http://www.un.org/members/list.shtml#v.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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