I’ve specialised in international data and its management for 30 years now, and everything I learn (which I still do daily) enforces the fact that the foundation anybody needs for successful international data management is knowledge. Knowledge, that is, of the world, its systems, conventions, languages, cultures and ways. Knowing how to code brilliantly is unhelpful unless you know what you need to achieve, and knowledge is essential when choosing a partner to help you with your international data quality.
I recently came across a provider of international address validation which claimed to support “250+ countries”. Defining what a country is is not as straightforward as you might suppose. It depends on who you are, where you are, and your political background. There are unrecognized de facto countries and non-existent de jure countries. Even so, however liberal your definition, you would not get anywhere near 250. If you’re counting the more accurate “countries and territories” then you’d get closer, but 250 remains claim inflation. There was a time when every address validation company was trying to outdo the others with country support number inflation. One supported 240 so the next claimed 250 and one even went for 300 plus, which is just ludicrous. This had calmed down, so I rather hope that this new claim is not the start of a new round of unsupportable claims. The company claiming 250+ includes uninhabited rocks (they may have an ISO code, but there are no addresses to validate) and non-existent political entities such as Antarctica. Check the claims in more detail, and they become more preposterous – they claim validation to postal code level even for countries and territories which do not have postal codes.
I would feel better about seeing claims like this if I thought that most people dealing with international data were well enough informed to be able to go to this company and say “you claim to support more countries than there are, how can we be expected to trust you with our data?” This wouldn’t have to happen often for providers of these services to sober up and start telling the truth. The company concerned claims 2800+ customers, including many large companies which should understand addresses. I understand the pressures that companies put themselves under to market and sell their products, but claims need to be based on truth. I did contact the company to ask about this – I received no response. If more people working with international data would educate themselves better in … international data… then that data would be better managed, cleaner and better governed. Let’s hope that things improve in the next 30 years.