Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board (DSBB)

General Data Dissemination System

What is the General Data Dissemination System (GDDS)?

A brief history
Purposes of the GDDS
Participation in the GDDS
Principal features of the GDDS
Uses of the GDDS

A brief history

The Fund's work on data dissemination standards began in October 1995, when the Interim Committee (now the International Monetary and Financial Committee or IMFC) endorsed the establishment by the Fund of standards to guide members in the dissemination to the public of their economic and financial data. Those standards were to consist of two tiers: the General Data Dissemination System (GDDS), which would apply to all Fund members, and the Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS), for those member countries having or seeking access to international capital markets. The SDDS was approved by the IMF Executive Board in March 1996, and the GDDS in December 1997. For further information on the differences between the two standards click here.

The General Data Dissemination System: Guide for Participants and Users is available (pdf) in English. This Guide incorporate updates to the GDDS made by the IMF Executive Board in its reviews of the IMF's Data Standards Initiatives, since 1996. It replaces the October 2004 Guide entitled Guide to the General Data Dissemination System. The Guide, aimed primarily at national statisticians, is intended to provide practical guidance to member countries that are using the GDDS or considering participation in the GDDS.

The GDDS has been implemented in two phases. The first focussed on education and training. It consisted of a series of nine regional seminars for country officials and the preparation of pilot metadata (i.e., descriptions of practices on data production and dissemination, and comprehensive plans for improvement of these practices) for several countries to serve as examples of the type of information expected. The second phase started in May 2000. At that time, the first metadata for countries participating in the GDDS were posted on the Fund's DSBB.

The design and implementation of the GDDS has benefited from close collaboration with member countries and other international organizations, notably the World Bank in regards to socio-demographic data. The Statistics Department of the IMF, in collaboration with the World Bank and other providers of technical assistance, and with generous financial support from Japan and the United Kingdom, continues to assist member countries wishing to participate in the GDDS, including through regional GDDS projects, to prepare metadata and to implement the plans for improvement identified therein.

Purposes of the GDDS

The purposes of the GDDS are to:
  • Encourage member countries to improve data quality;
  • Provide a framework for evaluating needs for data improvement and setting priorities in this respect; and
  • Guide member countries in the dissemination to the public of comprehensive, timely, accessible, and reliable economic, financial, and socio-demographic statistics.
  • Participation in the GDDS

    Member countries of the IMF voluntarily elect to participate in the GDDS. Participation requires: (1) committing to using the GDDS as a framework for statistical development; (2) designating a country coordinator; and (3) preparing metadata that describe (a) current practices in the production and dissemination of official statistics, and (b) plans for short- and longer-term improvements in these practices.

    Participants are requested to update their metadata if and when significant changes in their statistical practices or plans for improvement take place, but at least once a year.

    Any changes to the GDDS mandated by the IMF Executive Board may not be reflected in the country presentations on the Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board (DSBB) until the next periodic update for that country.

    Principal features of the GDDS

    The GDDS framework is built around four dimensions -- data characteristics, quality, access, and integrity -- and is intended to provide guidance for the overall development of macroeconomic, financial, and socio-demographic data. The framework takes into account, across a broad range of countries, the diversity of their economies and the developmental requirements of many of their statistical systems.

    The data dimension includes coverage, periodicity (i.e. the frequency of compilation), and timeliness (i.e. the speed of dissemination). The data dimension addresses the development, production, and dissemination of two interrelated classes of data: (1) comprehensive frameworks for each of the four economic and financial sectors (real, fiscal, financial, and external); and (2) indicators for each of these sectors, plus the socio-demographic data.

    With regard to comprehensive frameworks, the objective of the GDDS is to encourage the production and dissemination of complete sets of data with widest coverage, based on international methodologies. Particular aggregates and balances are provided for illustration, but the emphasis is placed on complete data sets rather than on specific indicators. Within the GDDS, Table A relates to comprehensive frameworks. Click here for an example.

    In addition to comprehensive frameworks, the GDDS identifies three types of data categories and indicators, namely (1) summary measures derived from comprehensive frameworks (for example, GDP for national accounts); (2) data that permit tracking of principal measures in the comprehensive frameworks (for example, the industrial production index for real GDP); and (3) other data relevant to the sector (for example, interest rates for the financial sector). Within the GDDS, Table B relates to data categories and indicators. Click here for an example.

    In addition to recommending core comprehensive frameworks and data categories and indicators as first priorities, the GDDS also contains encouraged extensions (from the core). For example, the International Investment Position (IIP) is an encouraged extension for the external sector (with the balance of payments being the core framework), and non-guaranteed private external debt is an encouraged extension of the public and publicly guaranteed external debt data category.

    The GDDS provides recommendations on good practice, based on current practices of agencies compiling and disseminating data in countries. Recommended good practices as to coverage, periodicity, and timeliness are summarized for comprehensive frameworks and data categories and indicators.

    The data dimension in the GDDS is closely linked to the quality dimension, within which plans for improving data quality form an integral part. The focus for the access and integrity dimensions is on the development of policies and practices in line with the objectives of dissemination of readily accessible and reliable data. Information on access and integrity of the data and, especially, the agencies that produce and disseminate them, is essential in building confidence of the user community in official statistics. Within the GDDS, Table C relates to data integrity and access. Click here for an example.

    In addition to information on the compilation and dissemination practices, and plans for improving statistical systems, the metadata also include contact information on national officials responsible for the data concerned. Information on the formats and titles of national statistical publications is also included.

    Uses of the GDDS

    Among the principal potential beneficiaries of the GDDS are national statistical agencies, the users of data, and the providers of technical assistance.

    National statistical agencies can benefit by adopting the GDDS framework to systematically evaluate and improve their statistical systems in a comprehensive and prioritized way, across a broad range of data and statistical agencies. Against this background, the GDDS is one of the most important strategic projects for the Fund in the area of statistics, where a long-standing objective has been the improvement of data and statistical practices among the membership.

    From the perspective of the user community, the GDDS can provide a valuable body of information regarding the state of statistical development and plans for improvement of participating countries. The detailed metadata also provide users with a tool to better assess the usefulness of the data for their own particular purposes.

    The GDDS will also be a valuable resource of information for bilateral and multilateral providers of technical assistance, and it can be a tool to enhance cooperation between such providers.

    The IMF disseminates the GDDS metadata of participating countries on its website as a service to its members and the user community at large. National agencies may also--and indeed are encouraged to--disseminate metadata on their own website and/or in hard copy.