“What is an API?” for federal government by GSA


Hi. I’m Gray Brooks, Sr. API Strategist
at GSA’s Digital Government Innovation Center. In the next few minutes, I’m going to tell
you what APIs are and why you’ve been hearing so much about them. APIs help computers, websites,
or applications talk to each other without needing your help. The term actually stands for “Application
Programming Interface” …but don’t worry about what this acronym stands for. There
are already too many acronyms in government as it is. Instead, focus on what they are
for… By publishing APIs, you make possible Apps
that allow citizens, industry, and even other government agencies to more easily interact
with your information and services. But it’s not just a question of what Apps you have
the staff and resources to develop yourself. APIs allow non-profits, small businesses,
or concerned citizens to make their own Apps, too. With APIs, you make the rest of the world
a Partner to your mission. In other words, APIs fundamentally allow Innovation to flourish
and do so much more than you ever could on your own. Recently, the National Archives and Government
Printing Office launched live API access to the entire Federal Register.
Within months, the non-profit Sunlight Foundation launched Scout, a tool that used the Federal
Register API to provide instant email and SMS alerts to any government activity. A citizen
could enter a keyword, phrase, bill name, or topic and receive live notifications to
associated government work. APIs allow the Automation of countless manual
tasks, freeing you up to do more – faster and more efficiently. There’s just no need
to do by hand what can now be maintained Automatically. More so, APIs act as a Platform on which you
can then further build. Think of APIs as scaffolding that allow your team to then stand and build
upon them. The role of APIs aren’t a fad. The entire
Internet is undeniably shifting to an API-based model. There are many reasons why the private
sector is already quite far along. Every major website you visit today is using APIs. The
pragmatic use of APIs is an Inevitable part of your digital strategy and if you haven’t
started yet, now is the time to begin. For two hundred years, the Census Bureau has
made public important national data that impacts us all. This year, for the first time, they released
a complete API and the results speak for themselves. Within weeks, over 1,000 developers were using
the API and the apps they are building already average 57 service calls per second. Clearly,
this model works. For more examples to follow, simply look at
what other agencies are already doing. Take their models and apply them to your own situation.
Then, go and do likewise.

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