Definition: The Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce, and Transport (EDIFACT), also called the United Nations Rules for Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce and Transport (UN/EDIFACT), defines a set of internationally accepted rules and guidelines for the exchange of structured data between unconnected computer systems.
EDIFACT is approved, maintained, and published by the UN Centre For Trade Facilitation And E-Business (UN/CEFACT). The rules are published in the United Nations Trade Data Interchange Directory (UNTDID).
The data rules in EDIFACT are accompanied by a code of conduct that governs the use of EDIFACT between the parties exchanging data. The code of conduct is called the Uniform Rules of Conduct for Interchange of Trade Data by Teletransmission (UNCID). The rules outline the ways parties performing an interchange of data should behave including logs, data storage, content protection, acknowledgements, and confirmations.
The Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce, and Transport provides a certain amount of assurance between two parties exchanging information that the data will be respected and interpreted correctly. This is especially important when commerce crosses international boundaries where law and custom may differ. EDIFACt ensures that the transport of information is system, platform, and country of origin agnostic.
EDIFACT is a set of rules governing syntax, a definition set of accepted data tags, and a set of approved message types. The syntax rules describe how data is structured in a message, including issues such as nesting, acceptable character sets, and structures. Tags describe the types of data (measurements, sizes, etc.) and how they are represented. Message types, also called United Nations Standard Message types (UNSMs), bring the two together with messages such as a "Banking status message" or a "Bulk marine inspection summary report message."
United Nations Standard Message types are managed by the Working Party on Facilitation of International Trade Procedures (WP.4). Data and procedure experts are nominated to the group by member nations or recognized organizations. Some members are UN/EDIFACT Rapporteurs (RT). RTs are nominated by a government then appointed by the WP.4. RTs are responsible for taking proposals through a multi-step draft process. If the proposal reaches the final draft stage then it is presented to the W.4 for approval.