How do APIs (application programming interfaces) in digital government bring added value for public services? JRC experts have uncovered the potential of APIs and proposed a framework of practical recommendations for their adoption in the public sector and the development of new applications for citizens.

The study focusing on governmental web APIs, has started in January 2018 and lasted two years. It contributes to:

The study:

  • assesses digital government APIs landscape and opportunities to support the digital transformation of public sector;
  • identifies the added value for society and public administrations of digital government APIs (key enablers, drivers, barriers, potential risks and mitigates);
  • defines a basic Digital Government API EU framework and the next steps.

The Report

On 17 September 2020, the JRC report “Application Programming Interfaces in Governments: Why, What and How” was published. JRC experts have uncovered the potential of application programming interfaces (APIs) and proposed a framework of practical recommendations for their adoption in the public sector and the development of new applications for citizens. Another important finding was that when governments did take a stab at rolling out API-based services, the uptake of these was rapid and massive.

Enabling Digital Government

The chief advantage of APIs lies in their modularity: digital processes and datasets can be easily packaged into modules, which can be re-used and recombined for different applications. Moreover, APIs cannot be bypassed if public services want to move from eGovernment – the digital replication of a paper-based bureaucracy – to smart government, which makes full use of the opportunities provided by digitalisation.

The JRC’s Science for Policy report analyses in detail the relevance of APIs in governments and suggests the way to adopt them. Additionally, a JRC technical report provides a detailed practical framework that organisations can use to improve their API infrastructure.

It contains advice on API strategy, tactics, and operations related to policy support, platform and ecosystems, developers, and processes and is complemented with an online self-assessment tool.

Recommendations for governments include, among others:

  • prioritising key areas for API deployment such as the health sector;
  • raising awareness of the importance of API culture among decision-makers;
  • ironing out the legal ownership issues that using foreign datasets entails.

The study also yielded further technical reports on API related general-purpose standards, terms and European Commission initiatives and a collection of Case Studies on APIs in government.

All outputs can also be accessed through the JOINUP Collection on APIs tor the digital transformation.

The Landscape Workshop

As part of the APIs4DGov study, in 2018 the JRC hosted a workshop to assess the landscape of Government API strategies across Europe.

The workshop explored the API strategies spectra in Europe and aimed to facilitate networking among API decision-making stakeholders. World-renowned experts from industry and academia, including David Berlind (Chief Editor of Programmable Web), Mehdi Medjaoui (Co-founder of the APIDays conferences), Kin Lane (the "API evangelist") and Mark Boyd (API and Platform strategist) delivered keynote speeches. The JRC has published the keynote speeches as well as presentations by representatives from governments across Europe on API related strategies and experiences.

Related Research

The study complements on earlier research already published:

Anyone working for a public administration and with a task related to APIs, is invited get in contact with the study to tell about their API case examples in any relevant policy domain (e.g. health, transport, cybersecurity, IOT, etc).

This study and the recommendations can also help understand and then unlock the huge potential of APIs and support Europe in achieving one of the main priorities of this Commission - to make Europe fit for the digital age.

Further Information

Workshop on API Landscape
or contact the eGovernment and Trust Unit (Connect H4)