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APIs in government (report) 2.25 MB

There’s one technology that could dramatically improve the way we interact with our governments and use government data. In the process, this one technology could protect government from the risks associated with digital projects – and even create entire new markets within the economy.

The Application Programming Interface, or API, has been the driver of major market disruptions. Netflix made Blockbuster obsolete, Spotify grew to be the world’s largest on-demand music service and Amazon became the most valuable public company in the world all with the help of APIs.

APIs have become a foundational technological component of modern digital architectures, impacting every sector of the global economy. Now considered an essential element of modern digital service delivery, APIs are “a kind of an infrastructure” and are “the key to unlocking the digital economy.” APIs have the potential to accelerate and improve government digital service delivery, enhance interoperability between government bodies, facilitate open-data initiatives and allow for the co-creation of digital services between the public and private sectors.

While you may not have heard of APIs, you have almost definitely used them. APIs are behind so much modern functionality, from the buttons that let you share articles on social media to the directions you get from your favourite navigation or mapping app.

Governments are using APIs more and more. In fact, one of the earliest uses by the Government of Canada, the Canada Revenue Agency’s NETFILE program, has been called “the most significant example of success” of e-government services.

This report explores two uses of APIs within the Government of Canada, one being the NETFILE program, to help the public and public servants understand what works and what doesn’t.

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