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Regional geographic analysis in the United States is constrained by the alphabetic FIPS codes which were assigned in the 1960’s. Base codes were assigned alphabetically for states, then alphabetically for counties and comparable geographies within states, making it simple to lookup individual state or county data in a list, but offering no geographic information on proximity. Some regional aggregation was done in the establishment of Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA), which were separately coded. At the same time, there was no comparable national system to aggregate non-metropolitan counties into standard regions, although most states established some form of multi-county regional councils. Some, like Virginia, used sub-state districts for data aggregation and use by other State agencies, allowing the region number to act like a FIPS code that also embedded geographic information.
The author began work in 1998 on the issue. A review of other national and international systems led to the conclusion that a global geocode system was needed, since existing formats were based on the alphabetic approach which could be handled by early computing. Economists Jeffery Sachs and James K. Galbraith have expressed interest in such a system, as Professor Sach opened his 2012 AAG address by saying that “economists think counties are arranged alphabetically on the globe, since that is the way the data appears.” The purpose of this paper is to present the prototype design for the purpose of further consideration by the user communities.
The system is based on a geocode scheme set up for earth that focuses on established political boundaries as a basis for regional grouping of nations, states and localities. It is decimal system based to take advantage of the sort criteria for numbers in computers. It utilized the Sector Group and Region codes of the United Nations and ISO. Geographic information system technology does not solve the problem, but its tools can be used with the geocodes.
The geocode system effectively organizes Wikipedia entries as a library management and the geocodes can be used for data aggregation. This has been developed under a Creative Commons license and would benefit from a global network implementation where local users cooperatively related subnational geographic regions and component political geography.
Papers in Applied Geography, Volume 36, 2013