Suggestion: Timezone Information Center

Markus G. Kuhn kuhn at
Thu Sep 5 17:30:46 UTC 1996

As far as I know, this mailing list represents the best collection of
people knowledgeable about time zones and summer time regulations all
over the world.

There would be many advantages if we could present ourself as a more
formal entity to the governments of this world.  We could establish
something called for instance a "International Timezone Information
Center".  We could send letters directly or over UN channels to the
governments.  In these letters, we could invite the government
employees responsible for the various national time zones to join
our mailing list and we could ask the governments to inform us about
any future time zone changes as early as possible.

We could also provide for governments information material about the
summer time switching algorithms that are currently in use. Such a
periodic mailing could be easily created automatically from the most
recent tz database. Such a publication would have several effects:

  - Governments have a chance to check the Olson database contents
    periodicly (both algorithms and terminology)
  - Governments are reminded periodicly to inform us whenever
    they plan to change their time zones
  - We would get in better contact with other organizations that
    collect timezone information (CIA, phone companies, etc.)
  - Governments are made a little bit more aware about the headaches
    that frequent arbitrary time zone changes and incompatible
    summer time switching rules can cause in the technical world
  - We would not have to rely completely on unprecise media reports
    about planned timezone changes but would get access to more
    official reports
  - Governments would get well-engineered examples of how a summer time
    switching rule should be specified correctly
  - Governments could perhaps be persuaded to accept a unique ID
    for their national time zones (I have already seen some good
    proposals here)

All we need is someone who would be willing to operate such a
"International Timezone Information Center (ITIC?)", preferably
someone working for a big organization or company that is very
interested in keeping information about time zones up to date.
Perhaps several such organizations (AT&T, Sun, Microsoft, etc.) would
be willing to support a time zone information center. The Information
Center should under no circumstances be financed by selling the
resulting publications. The data should be freely usable, in order to
avoid the silly situation that we have with ISO standards (not online
and so expensive that almost nobody ever sees a copy them).

May be, we could later give this operation a more official touch by
writing an ISO standard or an ITU-R TF-series recommendation
<URL:> that describes the
role of the ITIC (ugly acronym, better suggestions?). We could also
establish some more or less formal relations with the UN and the
BIH/IERS (Bureau International d'Heure/International Earth Rotation
Service, the folks that define UTC as defined by ITU-R).

What do you think?


Markus G. Kuhn, Computer Science grad student, Purdue
University, Indiana, USA -- email: kuhn at

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