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Why government should use application programming interfaces (APIs)
Agencies that use systems designed in a modular and API-enabled way are more able to leverage new and better technologies as they emerge, instead of being locked into strictly defined and less flexible traditional large systems.
Why must I?
APIs allow the private sector to use government data holdings in new ways that generate significant value for the community and economy. It’s not realistic to think that government agencies can recognise and realise every value-creating opportunity. By making government data publicly accessible via APIs, it is easier for individuals, businesses and community organisations to find and realise these ‘value adds’.
APIs also make government service delivery markets contestable. Currently, government services are usually solely delivered by government agencies. In the past, there was simply no alternative. APIs change this, enabling the private sector to offer enhanced services. Market competition and profit incentive will drive the creation of cheaper and better services for citizens, regardless of agency and jurisdiction boundaries. Market competition also creates stronger incentives for agencies to operate efficiently and provide better services. In addition, APIs will make it easier to identify services where government ‘retailing’ is unnecessary.
How do I?
Follow our guidance at https://apiguide.readthedocs.org/en/latest/ to build APIs that:
- reduce barriers to entry: people won’t use stuff that’s too hard to use
- value simple over complex
- let systems naturally evolve rather than trying to mandate how they are used
- use widely adopted and open standards: this maximises participation and minimises vendor lock-in.
We are working on more detailed guidance about using APIs. We are drafting this collaboratively on GitHub and we welcome your feedback: https://github.com/AusDTO/apiguide/issues.
Our API guidance is consistent with similar advice from the UK Government service design manual detailed guidance on Using and creating APIs and the White House Web API Standards GitHub repository guidance on government API use.
Last updated: 19 August 2015