Govts agree on national API standards

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Govts agree on national API standards

To keep IT systems interoperable.

Commonwealth, state and territory IT ministers have agreed to a set of national application programming interface (API) design standards to promote interoperability between IT systems.

The decision, taken at the fifth meeting of the Australian Digital and Data Council in Sydney on Friday, aims to ensure APIs are consistent between all levels of government.

The standards will allow governments, as well as “trusted” third-parties, to “securely share, re-use and enhance data in real-time”.

“The national API design standards create a common method of API development that all governments can adopt,” the ministers said in a communique following the meeting.

“This will create consistency between governments and promote interoperability between jurisdictions’ IT systems.

“Governments across Australia will be able to develop services more efficiently, learning from each other and, where needed, have services that work well across jurisdictions.”

Ministers approved the creation of the standards at an April 2019 meeting of the council and tasked the Digital Transformation Agency with prioritising their development.

The standards were to build on the API standards work of other jurisdictions to date, particularly Victoria which has had a whole-of-government API portal since April.

The DTA first identified the need for interoperability standards, including those for APIs, in December 2018 as part of its digital services platform strategy to enable like up new and existing systems.

The national API design standards (NAPIDS), which have been developed using a co-design model led by the DTA and the Victorian government, are intended to be used to as best practices guides when developers are building APIs.

“The NAPIDS enable developers building APIs to move past common decision points by referencing pre-agreed, best practice design patterns and implementing their APIs according to these standards,” the government’s api.gov.au hub states.

The standards separate APIs into three categories: system level APIs, process level APIs and experience level APIs, each of which has differing requirements.

Experience level APIs or “APIs intended to ease the adoption of API integration between and organisation and its external consumers”, for instance, requires that the design standards be applied.

The standards also replace the DTA's plan for a data exchange platform, which CEO Randal Brugeaud has previously said was dumped after the discovery process "determined that a discrete data exchange was not the best way to do it".

A bare-bones version of the government’s API catalogue is similarly contained on api.gov.au, with five APIs, including from the ATO and Australian Bureau of Statistics, listed.

Updated 10:20am December 10 to include information in a DTA blog post.

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