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GDS issues API technical and data standards



Emphasises importance in supporting the re-use of government technology and making better use of data

The Government Digital Service (GDS) has released its new set of data and technical standards for APIs, describing the move as a significant step in improving digital services and reducing costs.

It includes an emphasis on following the Technology Code of Practice, the criteria for designing and building technology in government, and a series of detailed points on good practice in creating APIs.

There has been a growing emphasis on the significance of APIs (application program interfaces) for digital public services, as they provide the interface for developers to tap into data sources from government systems. This provides the scope for the creation of apps by public authorities or third parties, reflecting a shift in sentiment towards creating ecosystems rather than more tightly controlled structures for app development.

GDS emphasised their role in helping government bodies to share and re-use technology and make better use of data.

The point on following the Technology Code of Practice includes a need to comply with the Open Standards Principles of open access – designed to support software interoperability – adhere to the official cyber security guidelines, and ensure they can support a scaling up of services and changes in the objectives.

Series of issues

Other standards cover issues including: using uniform resource identifiers to identify certain data; good practice for tokens and permissions; authorisation of users; using the Unicode Transformation Format for encoding; and iteration of APIs.

The document also tells public bodies to publish their APIs over the internet by default, and that if there is a reason not to do so they should email GDS.

GDS said it has received early feedback that will prompt the development of further guidance in a few areas, including documentation, authentication and authorisation, data security and confidentiality, service level objectives, and legacy and migration.

A number of recent developments have highlighted the growing importance of APIs in public sector digital efforts. In November NHS Digital revealed plans to open an API Lab, and last month the Council for Science and Technology called on the Government to develop data standards and APIs to encourage the use of new digital devices in social care.

Image by Andy Smith, CC BY-SA 2.0 through flickr


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