Title: Application Programming Interfaces in Governments: Why, what and how: Channelling Government Digital Transformation through APIs
Publisher: Publications Office of the European Union
Publication Year: 2020
JRC N°: JRC120429
ISBN: 978-92-76-18982-4 (online),978-92-76-18981-7 (print)
ISSN: 1831-9424 (online),1018-5593 (print)
Other Identifiers: EUR 30227 EN
OP KJ-NA-30227-EN-N (online),KJ-NA-30227-EN-C (print)
URI: https://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/handle/JRC120429
DOI: 10.2760/58129
Type: EUR - Scientific and Technical Research Reports
Abstract: Application programming interfaces (APIs) are a 50-year-old technology that can be applied to many fields and that, for some years, the public sector has used to implement its digital transformation (e.g. for the publication of public sector information and for public service provision in different areas), although this technology is not yet fully used to support government policies. Recently, the European Commission has produced a series of policy instruments that require or suggest the adoption of APIs in governments and in some specific areas in particular. These initiatives include the Open Data EU Directive 2019/1024, which requires the use of APIs for ‘high-value’ and dynamic datasets and the European Commission ‘European strategy for data’ Communication COM/2020/66 that reports on future investment in ‘the establishment of EU-wide common, interoperable data spaces’. The goal of this report is to present the main results of a 2-year study on the adoption of APIs in governments, which also supports the adoption of the abovementioned policy instruments. Even though the cohesive and coordinated adoption of APIs in the public sector is still in its early stages, the results of this study demonstrate that APIs present many benefits for the public sector, including fostering innovation in governments and related public services, improving efficiency, improving access to government open data, increasing economic opportunities for private companies using government APIs and enabling the creation and facilitation of interactions between governments (G2G) and between governments and businesses (G2B) in relation to digital ecosystems. However, these benefits also carry technical and organisational costs. In adopting APIs, governments can also encounter risks and challenges. These include cybersecurity issues, missing API governance structures, the difficulty in adopting proper legal instruments to adhere to current regulation, the lack of an API culture and the need for agile platforms to adapt digital public services provision to a rapidly evolving society. To tackle these issues, this study has developed a basic API framework for governments. It provides a cohesive, coordinated approach to APIs that deals with the problems and complexity that result from ad hoc implementation of APIs. It frames existing efforts within a more coordinated suite of activities including (i) the alignment of API adoption with policy goals, (ii) the creation of platforms and ecosystems based on APIs, (iii) the organisation of teams and the development of an API culture and (iv) designing processes based on API best practices. The recommendations and actions outlined in this framework, to be performed in policy priority areas, should also be followed. APIs need to be explicitly adopted to support the new Commission priorities and EU and Member State policies; this adoption should be accompanied by the creation of shared best practices and guidelines to implement an API culture in governments. In addition, the proposed framework should be adopted, further validated and continuously refined to guide government API strategies and digital government strategies, and governments should be more digital ecosystems aware, engaging multiple stakeholders to co-create and co-design API-based systems.
JRC Directorate:Growth and Innovation

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