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  • Writer's pictureDigital Team

Different national approaches to support API use.


API use in government

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are a crucial component of Government digital transformation. APIs can enable interoperability, support data sharing, and foster innovation. Many countries have made API's a priority and this blog highlights the different aspects that some jurisdictions are emphasising for comparison.


Using an API framework - European Commission


The European Commission proposed the use of the Application Programming Interface (API) framework for digital government. The Framework encourages developing proposals based around four organisational pillars: policy support, platforms, ecosystems, people, and processes.


The Framework recommends putting foundational elements be in place at the strategic, tactical and operational levels. It notes that without these elements APIs could become increasingly ad-hoc and complex, have less interoperability, and reinforce siloes.


The Framework suggests at the API strategic level governments need to:

  • align APIs with policy goals;

  • define the government platform vision;

  • create governance structures;

  • form guiding principles for API processes.

At the API tactical level governments need to:

  • design metrics and prioritise APIs;

  • harmonise platform and ecosystems assets;

  • establish cross-competency teams;

  • follow an API product approach.

At an operational level governments need to:

  • measure policy impacts of APIs;

  • build API platform components;

  • appoint API product manager(s) and teams;

  • adopt an API lifecycle approach.

A number of European countries have adapted the Framework for their API strategies, guidelines, policies, and action plans.


Developing a national API Strategy - The United Kingdom


The UK Government has developed a national API strategy for how public sector entities should utilise APIs. The strategy provides principles and guidelines for API use and interoperability in alignment with the digital services framework. The API strategy also highlights the importance of an API Gateway to manage user and application authentication, rate limiting, throttling requests, logging, and reporting.


API standardization - United States


Efforts by the US Government to standardise APIs across federal agencies is led by the data.gov initiative. The focus of the initiative has been interoperability, consistency and security. An API management tool has been used to enforce secure access controls and encryption protocols to public data hosted by federal agencies.


Enabling interoperability - Canada


The Government of Canada is seeking to build innovative solutions to enable advanced (digital) service delivery through data sharing in a modern, secure, and unified way. Key Government API tools, standards, and guidance include:


The Government of Canada's has created an extensive catalog of its public APIs in order to help developers. The categorized catalog supports the accessibility and usability of government APIs.


Developer portal - Singapore


The Singapore Government developer portal (www.developer.tech.gov.sg) is a one-stop hub for digital products and services including open APIs and datasets. The portal is for government agencies, vendors, and tech professionals such as developers engaged in digital transformation projects. The portal includes the following:


1. Products


Products from across the government including open-source products, digital identity, data and API-based tech. The data.gov.sg, is repository of datasets that provides real-time data feeds through APIs. Information is also provided about the Singapore Government Tech Stack which includes platform tools that streamlines and simplifies the development process and enables code reuse across government.


2. Documentation Service


Documentation service houses technical documentation including playbooks, onboarding guides, API specs and publication guides.


3. Guidelines


Guidelines for project teams to implement best practices, metrics, procurement workflows etc.


4. Communities


Means to create community resources such as STACK Meetups


5. Digital Government Content


The Singapore’s digital government journey, key lessons, Digital Government Exchange (DGX), and opportunities for international collaboration.


The Singapore government has also implemented a national identity API that empowers citizens to authenticate their identity online for access to various services. This supports service delivery by reducing the need for citizens to repeatedly input their information every time they engage with government agencies.


Data exchange - Estonia


Estonia uses X-Road a data exchange layer to facilitate public and private sector organizations securely sharing data. X-Road is a government API framework licensed under the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) license that provides an API management layer and API gateway.




References:


Boyd, M., Vaccari, L., Posada, M., Gattwinkel, D. (2020). An Application Programming Interface

(API) framework for digital government. European Commission

Government of Canada, API Store (n.d.). https://api.canada.ca/

Estonia. X-Road, Data Exchange Layer X-Road (n.d.). https://x-road.global/

Government of Singapore, Real-Time APIs on data.gov.sg

U.S. General Services Administration, Data.gov, Developer's Guide (n.d.). https://www.data.gov/developer/

UK Government Digital Service, API technical and data standards (2017). https://www.gov.uk/guidance/gds-api-technical-and-data-standards


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