Earlier last summer, the U.S. Chief Information Officer, Steven VanRoekel released the federal government’s new digital strategy which aims to shift the way government information is accessed and consumed. Instead of focusing on producing a final product, which has been common practice for years, the government will now be making content more accurate, available and secure. One major tool in the information technology tool box being used to achieve this goal is the use of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).
An API is a set of tools for building software applications. But more importantly, an API makes information more accessible. This is important for two reasons.
First, the use of APIs makes it easier to replicate government information across more places than ever before. APIs enable automatic updates of information when content is syndicated on other websites, while reducing actual person hours currently spent manually updating content.
Second, APIs make information and data easily available to developers, who can create Web and mobile applications that make information increasingly more useful to the public. We have already seen the benefits of liberating vast amounts of data through the Department of Health and Human Service’s Open Government Health Data Initiative, hundreds of applications like My Cancer Genome, HealthGrades, Archimedes’ IndiGO, and the Healthy Communities Network which have been developed for individuals, communities and service providers. HHS has been liberating vast amounts of its data, many of which have APIs and are on HealthData.gov.
As the government changes the way it does business—making content and Web APIs the new default—government information and data will be more open, accessible and useful for the public. This strategy will open doors for communication and give everyone the opportunity to use government information in a more meaningful way.
The author is Bryan Sivak, Chief Technology Officer, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the article first appeared on the HHS DigiTalk blog.