To API, or Not to API

A recent blog post by Peter Krantz has sparked some interesting dialog on whether governments publishing open data for citizens and application developers need to deploy an Application Programming Interface (API) to their data.

Hello, my name is JSON

The full post can be viewed here. It provides a nice set of considerations for governments looking at standing up an API to serve data to those that want to build civic apps.

Standing up an API to serve open data is a non-trivial undertaking, and governments would be wise to consider the risks and costs associated with doing it.

I’d also suggest that those in government evaluating the best ways to serve open data to end consumers review the details provided in the Open Data Handbook.

The Handbook (published by the Open Knowledge Foundation) provides a nice summary of the various ways that governments can serve open data, and provides a thorough listing of pros and cons for each:

The data should be available as a complete set. If you have a register which is collected under statute, the entire register should be available for download. A web API or similar service may also be very useful, but they are not a substitutes for bulk access.

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