Application programming interfaces (APIs)
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) define the ways in which applications and software components communicate with each other. The term usually refers to web-based APIs, which underpin digital ecosystems by making services and information easily available within and across organisations.
API standards and guidelines
The API standards and guidelines give agencies and vendors some common, default guidance on API implementation to accelerate the development of government APIs.
It is published in 2 parts:
- Part A - Business — includes a detailed explanation of the principles of API development as well as tips for getting started
- Part B - Technical — covers security considerations and design and development guidance.
Most of the specific technical guidance is marked as ‘recommended’ or ‘advisory’. However, given that 1 of the key benefits of API use is sharing information across agencies efficiently you should consult the Government Enterprise Architecture Group and its API Working Group if you are designing APIs that will be used across multiple government agencies.
Providing open public APIs:
- supports the government-wide commitment to increasing openness and transparency by providing open access to public data the government collects and holds on behalf of taxpayers.
- allows government and third parties' systems to work together more seamlessly
- allows people do what they need to do without dealing with an agency directly.
- open or appropriately secured information and data to flow within government
- government and non-government systems to interact with each other
- information to be held in 1 place but used and reused in many places
- active support for the principles for open and transparent government.
- saves time — updated information is available through the API automatically
- helps to make information more reliable as it managed from 1 source
- makes it possible to share information through many sources in a consistent way
- increases the focus on customer needs by enabling agencies to share information and deliver multi-agency or ‘joined-up’ services more efficiently.
One of the key drivers is to unlock government data sources, so APIs need to be as easy as possible for developers to discover, understand and develop against. They need to be simple to understand and well described.
There is also some high level advice about content reuse in the Government Web Toolkit: