Standardized Data Exchange with SDMX: a Case Study

May 28, 2009

What does the U.N. and E.U. have in common with the World Bank and the European Central Bank? They want to exchange statistical data in an uncomplicated manner. Out of this need has grown the SDMX standard and its respective tools, as a case study by the Open Source Observatory and Repository (OSOR) information service has revealed.

The higher the goal, the longer it takes. In 2001 Europeans thought it might be wise to develop a common information management standard. What grew out of it was the XML for DATA Interoperability in Statistics (X-DIS) program, the standard for exchange of statistical data and metadata. In 2005 the E.U. approved the seed funding for a European project to implement the X-DIS standard, called the SDMX Open Data Interchange (SODI).

Statistical Data and Metadata Exchange (SDMX) is recognized by the International Standards Organization as the ISO 17369 standard. It describes the preparation of statistical data using XML in the form of tables and graphs. The standard is sponsored by the IDABC (short for the daunting name Interoperable Delivery of European eGovernment Services to the Administrations, Businesses and Citizens), but also by the U.N., the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the European Central Bank (ECB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Bank of International Settlements (BIS). According to the case study, the SODI organizations generally give their Java software away free under the European Union Public Licence (EUPL).

Immediately available from OSOR are the SDMX Framework and SDMX Converter. The SDMX.org website also provides the text to the SDMX Technical Standards.

The nine-page report is available online in ODT and PDF formats from the OSOR Case Studies website. Its author, Gregor Bierhals, is a researcher at the joint venture of Maastricht University and the United Nations University (UNU-MERIT) in Maastricht, Holland.

The European OSOR information service has a mission to "support the collaborative development of Open Source Software (OSS) applications and solutions, particularly cross-border collaborations and exchanges of knowledge and software." Since some time it has sponsored an "OSOR.eu Forge" collaborative open source development environment. OSOR is part of the IDABC Unit managed by the European Commission's Directorate-General for Informatics. IDABC is tasked until the end of 2009 to "encourage and support the delivery of cross-border public sector services to citizens and enterprises in Europe."

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