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Q.What is metadata?

Metadata is data about data, or, more fully, a description of the content and form of any resource. Examples include a shopping catalogue, describing the price, size, colour, brand and features of the items for sale, or the ‘properties’ section of an electronic file, giving the size, format, date created, creator and title of the file.. Metadata can be added to, or attached to, a web page, file or database, or any other information resource. This is sometimes referred to as ‘tagging’ information. Metadata can be machine readable, giving software applications the data they need to interpret the information held on a file, or it can be designed more for human interaction, listing the creator, title, subject and other data needed to find or manage the resource.  

Q. What sort of information resources need metadata?

Information held in any system exchanging data with another organisation. Essentially this means; web sites, records management systems, any system where data is sent to another government organisation and any intra-governmental information source (such as the Information Asset Register).   

Q. Should I include metadata in my document or create a separate file?

The e-GMS metadata is required for every Government document, and should be included in the document where possible. (Later FAQs give guidance on including e-GMS metadata in the various e-GIF compliant document formats.) If you are using additional metadata for other purposes, then you need to consider how the metadata relates to the document. In general, if a set of metadata is constant for all uses of the document, the metadata should be included in the document. If the metadata relates only to one possible use of the document amongst many possible uses, or if the document format is incompatible with automatic extraction of the additional metadata, then the additional metadata should be stored in a separate file.  

Q. What is the e-GMS?

The e-Government Metadata Standard describes in detail the way that metadata should be structured. Metadata is divided into elements such as Title, Creator, Date, Subject, and each element is refined, sometimes broken into sub-elements, sometimes by having the content controlled. The e-GMS is based on Dublin Core, an internationally recognised system for describing information resources.   

Q. Why is e-GMS metadata necessary?

If information is not tagged effectively and consistently it is very difficult to find or manage it, especially with the quantities of information resources now available. Additionally, people need to be able to find information and services without having to know which government organisation is responsible for them. This means getting straight to them from a single portal or search engine. For this to work well, the information needs to be consistently tagged. Metadata will also improve the management of official information, making government more efficient and helping ensure we meet our obligations for handling public records. The e-GMS lays down the standards and structure for tagging information, ensuring consistency of approach.  

Q. Who needs to know about the e-GMS?

Everyone who manages, plans, purchases or is otherwise concerned with information systems or strategies, such information managers, webmasters, portal developers and records managers in the public sector. 

Q. The e-GMS is mandated across the public sector but where can I find out more about what it applies to and how this will be enforced?

See the latest version of the e-GIF for the compliance regime.  

Q. What was the e-GMF?

The e-Government Metadata Framework was the policy that stated that public sector organisations should apply metadata conforming to the e-Government Metadata Standard (e-GMS) to their information systems. The e-GMF has since been superseded by the e-GIF .   

Q. I have an XML document. How do I add the metadata mandated by the e-GMS?

Follow the approach described in ‘Guidelines for implementing Dublin Core in XML’ at

e-GMS is based on Dublin Core and uses many of the elements specified by the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative.  

Q. I have an HTML/XHTML document. How do I add the metadata mandated by the e-GMS?

Metadata should be added to documents as described in ‘Expressing Dublin Core in HTML/XHTML meta and link elements’ at:   

Q. I have a PDF document. How do I add the metadata mandated by the e-GMS?

Dublin Core (and other) metadata is embedded in PDF files as a fragment of XML compliant with the document The Acrobat 5.0 manual states that: "In Acrobat 5.0, Adobe PDF files contain Document Metadata in XML format. This Document Metadata contains (but is not limited to) information that is also in the Document Properties. Any changes made in the Acrobat Document Properties dialog box are reflected in the Document Metadata. Because Document Metadata is in XML format, it can be extended and modified using third-party products." However, the Dublin Core metadata embedded in the PDF does not change to reflect changes in the document properties made through the Document Properties dialog box (only the PDF metadata changes). Therefore, at this time e-GMS compliance requires either using a third party product to handle the e-GMS metadata embedded in the PDF, or alternatively holding the e-GMS metadata in a separate file. 

Q. My document is made available to a browser that does not handle Dublin Core. How do I add metadata?  

Metadata for such documents needs to be handled separately. You should determine what your local system policy is concerning that proprietary document format. 

Q. What is an encoding scheme?

Encoding schemes are used to regulate the value of an element. They provide contextual information or parsing rules that help interpret a term value. These include controlled vocabularies, such as IPSV, or requirements that values be formatted according to a recognised standard, such as YYYY-MM-DD for date formats.  

Q. Which web pages need Subject metadata?

Adding metadata to web pages helps your users to find information and content managers to maintain your website. All pages must be tagged with at least the metadata mandated in e-Government Metadata Standard version 3.1: e-GMS for Websites.

For navigation pages, such as a site map or A to Z of resources, a Subject value from the Integrated Public Sector Vocabulary that relates to the function of your organisation or website as a whole would be useful. 

Q. How do I make suggestions for changes to the e-GMS?

Please send comments or suggestions to