APIs for Better Public Services
The Government Key Results Area (KRA) 9 Programme and NZ Tech hosted a workshop session to discuss the potential that APIs & access to backend government data might hold in terms of simplifying interactions with government, fostering innovation and contributing to better public services.
The workshop was attended by representatives from both government agencies as well as the New Zealand technology industry; in the spirit of looking for practical measures to accelerate progress.
We have been involved with KRA 9 & 10 for a while now and it’s great to see that the conversation as shifted from ‘should we’ to ‘how could we’ over the past few months. We have already started the adoption of the New Zealand Business Number.
The workshop session was facilitated – there was certainly plenty of active dialogue - and I left with some key thoughts & insights.
- For APIs to be sustainable they need to be baked into the architecture of agency systems – not be seen as an ‘add on’ activity. Building your internal systems architecture around APIs just makes good sense and is part of the Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) approach – everyone knows the problems building monolithic software applications create.
- A mechanism – perhaps a ‘API Marketplace’ – needs to be put in place to allow government to understand the demand and priority for APIs & backend data access. Ensuring that resources are focused on the highest value items at all times – targeting the right problem or exploiting the right opportunity. The marketplace should be built on the principle of co-production between government and private partners.
- An API equivalent of data.govt.nz is required (or perhaps the two can be combined?) to provide a register of API’s available across agencies. This could also be an opportunity to partner with other organisations (for example, Wiki New Zealand) on providing a standard set of interfaces/interface tools.
- APIs need to operate within an eco-system (including both government and commercial partners) – including a clear consistent operating model, roles & responsibilities as well as funding arrangements. Stewardship is required to maintain quality, oversee the adoption of standards and ensure that changing demands/opportunities are considered and catered for.
- Agencies needs to review their support mechanisms and structures in light of deploying API. Appropriate service levels need to be put in place – noting that often the publishing of API may shift agencies from 9-5 to 24/7 support models. This is another clear opportunity to work across agencies and even partner with commercial partners who may take on the support role (perhaps as service brokers?)
- An ‘open by default’ approach (already being fostered by data.govt.nz and others) needs to continue to be the starting position for any API development. Ongoing work in the areas of information security and privacy needs to be accelerated to ensure that APIs are built appropriately and comply with legislation and appropriate use terms.
I’m a huge believer in the potential that public-private partnerships hold for growing NZ Inc and establishing New Zealand as leaders in the new Global Digital Economy.
I’m looking forward to continuing to work with the KRA 9 & 10 teams to realize that potential and deliver real results that move NZ forward.