Data Book


1.01 Introduction

Main body of this book is Country Data of Cultural Conventions (Part 2), which lists Cultural Conventions( ref. to 1.05). These data are collected and assessed by the AFSIT-SIG on Information Technology Internationalization (AFSIT-SIG on I18N, ref. to 1.03 and Annex H) established in February 1993 under the Asian Forum of Standardization for Information Technology (AFSIT, ref. to 1.02 and Annex F and G). AFSIT-SIG on I18N is composed of experts from ten countries in the Asian region.

Brief description is given in the Part 1: AFSIT, parent organization of the SIG, mission and activities of the SIG, terminology of Internationalization, concept of cultural conventions, relation with international standards and its activities.

The purpose of the Data Book is, first, to provide a listing of cultural conventions of the AFSIT participating countries; second, to present basic requirements for Internationalization (I18N) from Asian region although the participating countries are limited only ten; third, to present a proto-type set of cultural conventions, which shall be expanded in Asian region with larger participation from the region and of other regions, thus to show the possibility and potentiality.

It has been an urgent need for IT Internationalization to collect and cumulate the cultural convention. In Western languages, the cultural convention data has been cumulated substantially by international activities such as the International Standardization Organization (ISO) as well as by information industries and already applied in part to information products and services. However, the Asian Requirements to Internationalization, itself of a problematic concept and contents, has not been presented yet. Therefore, the need has been regarded as if it does not exist of consumer of information and information products and services in Asian region which have tremendous potential as the information market.

The Data Book tries to be a solution to this situation based on the international cooperative work in the Asian region.

Another result in parallel to the Data Book, if we may say, is that the four year international work created a panel of experts in the field of IT Internationalization and/or IT standardization in the region. Discussion and cooperative work on non-simple task created not only this Data Book but also a group of experts with new experience and discernment. They shall certainly form a basis of further regional cooperation.


Thanks go to the SIG Experts from ten Asian countries for their patient and enthusiastic work as well as to the SIG Secretariat especially Mr. Yoshioki KANAE. Without his devoted prompting to the SIG members, the Data Book may have not been published. During the five years of work between 1992 and 1997, the executive directors of the Center of International Cooperation for Computerization (CICC), Mr.Yoshihide TSUJI, Mr. Kazumasa KOBAYASHI and Mr. Tatsuo TANAKA always paid special attention not only for financing the work but also for keeping harmony of the SIG experts from different cultural background. Thanks are also extended to INSTAC of the Japanese Standards Association (JSA), the Agency of Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) of JAPAN (MITI), especially to Mr. Koji TANABE, then the representative of CICC/Singapore. Our last thanks, on behalf of the SIG-experts, go to Dr. Shunsuke UEMURA, Professor of NARA Advanced Research Institute, who founded the SIG as the then chair person of the AFSIT and set the direction of our work.

1.02 The AFSIT

In 1987, the Asian Forum for Standardization of Information Technology (AFSIT) was organized centering on governmental agencies in Asian countries who have a large initiative on IT standardization to more positively promote standardization technology exchange with experts in the Asian countries in the information field.

The Secretariat of the AFSIT is in the Center of International Cooperation for Computerization (CICC) with the collaboration of the INSTAC of the Japanese Standards Association (JSA) under the auspices of Agency of Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) of JAPAN (MITI) for purposes of:

Activities of the AFSIT are comprised:

AFSIT Country Member are China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. The AFSIT membership is one representative from one member country, mostly from governmental organizations related to IT standardization. (see Annex F and G for detail)


Meeting Theme Date Place
#1Character SetsSep. 14,1987Tokyo
#2Input & OutputMar.10, 1989Tokyo
#3Processing & Printing of TextDec. 9, 1989 Singapore
#4DatabaseOct. 24,1990 Tokyo
#5Character Coding in Each Country Oct. 23, 1991 Tokyo
#6Open Systems & NetworkingAug. 10, 1992 Kuala Lumpur
#7Universal Code Sets and Internationalization Oct. 22, 1993 Tokyo
#8 International Networking & National Character Sets Set. 28, 1994 Tokyo
#9 Standardization Policies of Asian Countries and Methods for Implementing Standardization Cooperation in the Future Nov. 22, 1995 Tokyo


In July 1992, a proposal was made by CICC to setting up a SIG (Special Interest Group) on internationalization (i18n) of IT within the framework of the AFSIT with the following scope:

The proposal was approved by the AFSIT Steering Committee held on August 9, 1992 in Kuala Lumpur, and a call for experts was sent to the AFSIT members.

Mission of the SIG was defined as:

The initial tasks were defined to achieve understanding of:

And the SIG expert meetings were held:

SIG-1 February 7-8, 1993 Singapore, supported by CICC, JSA/INSTAC and the National Computer Board (NCB), Singapore.

SIG-2 October 21, 1993 Tokyo, supported by CICC and JSA/INSTAC

SIG-3 September 28, 1994 Tokyo, supported by CICC and JSA/INSTAC

SIG-4 November 21, 1995 Tokyo, supported by CICC and JSA/INSTAC

The SIG Membership is shown in Annex H.

1.04 IT internationalization

For broader utilization of information technology, a "Friendly User Interface for any user" is a very essential.

The friendliness is achieved when:

The process to adapt a system for target culture is called "localization', "nationalization", "cultural customization" or "internationalization". The process was performed by modifying the original system, This methodology is the easiest approach. However, the method has fundamental problems of "Cost", "Resource requirement", "Release Timing" and "Inter-operability".

To resolve the problems, ISO/IEC DTR 11017 "Framework for Internationalization" recommends:

The former process to design "culturally empty" system is called "INTERNATIONALIZATION" and

the later process to fill the "data" in the "empty container" is called "LOCALIZATION" in the DTR.


"Internationalization" in this data-book is the "INTERNATIONALIZATION" in ISO/IEC DTR 11017.

rem-1: ISO/IEC DTR 11017 is in DTR ballot as of May 1996.

1.05 What is Cultural Convention

This databook describes cultural convention data for information technology for AFSIT countries.

Cultural convention is defined as "A convention of an information system which is functionally equivalent between cultures, but may differ in presentation, operation behavior or degree of importance" in ISO/IEC DTR 11017 "Framework for internationalization".

There are too many items to list all the culturally dependent items in Information Technology (IT). For example, there are so many Taboo Items in each culture, it is very difficult to select which taboo item to include in this databook or which should not.

Rule of thumb to decide for inclusion is as follows:

Assume sales process of a system. If customer says that principle of system is acceptable, but can not place an order due to the user-interface, saying that "because presentation in our custom is different". And if the custom is not "organizational and/or custom of profession", then it must be a cultural convention that should be described in this data book. In this sense, there is no cultural convention out from Taboo even there are many taboo items in general sense.

1.05.1 Selection of cultural convention

As technology progresses and/or customer demand evolves, variety of cultural conventions to be supported by information system will be broader. The broader the application, the more cultural conventions to be supported. We are shooting moving target. Thus, it is very difficult to define single fixed set of cultural conventions for IT application to be relevant forever.

Therefore, in this databook, items for inclusion are selected more than what are supported in current information technology. Rather, this databook describes cultural conventions not only those needed today but also is including what may (may not) be supported in a systems in future. Thus, it is not necessary for a user of this databook to support all cultural conventions described in this databook.

However, it is necessary to list as many cultural conventions as possible in this databook, so that the "empty containers" for future additional cultural conventions are of the "right size and right shape".

1.05.2 Description format of cultural convention

Cultural convention data in this databook is in descriptive text. For real use of cultural data in information systems, it is necessary that the cultural convention data should be in machine readable form and in a mutually agreed format.

Since the format is not specified yet, for the purpose of utilization of data in real information systems, it is necessary to convert the data in this databook to machine readable form and in a mutually agreed data exchange format.

1.06 Relation with International Standards and it's activities

ISO/IEC JTC1 SC22 (Program Language) WG20 (Internationalization) is the related international standardization activity.

A technical report (TR) "ISO/IEC TR 11017 Framework for internationalization" is in development process (at DTR as of Jan. 96). The TR needs to describe all necessary cultural conventions. Feedback for Asian cultural conventions was taken cared from the SIG via Japanese national body, and also cultural conventions required for other region were carried to the SIG via Japanese expert in the WG20. Consistency is maintained between the TR and this databook through the informal and invisible communication channel. This is the first contribution that the SIG was made for the international standards

As per INTERNATIONALIZATION/LOCALIZATION principle, data of the cultural conventions is not always necessarily standardized. Any data to be filled into the "empty container", and whatever the data filled, the meaning of the data should be same regardless of the representation.

Besides, the "empty container" should be "right size and right shape'. The size and shape (method to specify the data in system) of the container should be standardized clearly enough. A project for "Cultural convention specification method" has opened at the WG20. Cultural convention data in this databook should be taken in to account in the specification. Again the WG20 members in AFSIT member countries will feedback the data for the project such that the "container size and shape" does fit to any of Asian requirements. This will be the second contribution from the SIG activity for the international standard.

Even though cultural convention data themselves are not necessarily standardized in theory, it can be used as a base of National Profile, Default data for the country etc., when it is necessary to define this data.

(If needed, those profiles to be registered for open public use) This "base for profiling" to be the third contribution of the SIG activities.

Still there are many countries, regions or minority groups where cultural convention data are not clear outside of the group (or even within the group sometime). For those group, this databook will be used as a template for reference to provide their cultural convention data opened. This will be fourth contribution of this databook.

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