How do you integrate data and services from a bureaucratic maze that includes 85 government agencies each with their own requirements? According to Terence Lee, in Singapore the answer is to create a whole-government API.
Led by Chan Cheow Hoe, the government chief information officer at the Infocomm Development Agency of Singapore (IDA), the government bound together the numerous systems to a separate engagement layer that includes the various apps that the country’s citizens will interact with.
By choosing this architecture, each agency’s databases can remained siloed while the data can be exchanged back and forth between the engagement layers and the various agencies. This benefits the user by only having to deal with a single interface while the agencies are spared the nightmarish job of coming together as a single entity.
To facility the flow of data not only between agencies but also between the government and the public, the IDA leveraged the idea of API gateways. Two API gateways are used and they are kept separate from each other. The first is a private one for internal use between agencies and the second is a public one that manages the APIs that are accessed by the country’s citizens. The gateways allow for the throttling of API calls, disabling apps that are making malicious use of the data, and provide a dashboard where access to sensitive data can be controlled.
The APIs managed by the public gateway can be viewed at Data.gov.sg, which collects all the government data APIs available to the public. The site houses more than 500 of the country’s most popular datasets and the focus is on making sure the data is extractable via APIs. Individual agencies are in charge of maintaining their data sets and over time they can submit more to Data.gov.sg.
As a result of this effort, the government has released several apps including OneService, for reporting municipal issues, MyInfo which stores personal data so that it can be used across multiple government services, and Business Grants Portal , a site that’ll let businesses browse and apply for grants from as many as 10 agencies. While it is still early days, the hope is that commercial enterprises will begin to leverage this data as well as contribute to the marketplace with their own apps and datasets.