What are APIs?
API stands for ‘application programing interface’ and within the web development context it usually refers to a set of specifications for how web commands will ‘communicate’ with each other. APIs are a structured way to represent data that an application has stored in its database. For example, a website page might request information from a customer resource (e.g. a road rule or a dataset) and return the results. Another example, this time from the , is using the to include ABN information and search in a website or other application.
The API design standard
The are part of , which is a joint initiative between the and the . API standards help connect websites, databases and other software — which is essential for service unification. They also streamline API development, because developers can reference best practice API design and implement APIs in line with the standards. Importantly, the also represent a whole-of-government approach, which delivers many benefits such as consolidation across government and reduced costs.
The standards focus on HTTP REST (Representational State Transfer). REST was chosen as the most widely used design standard around the world for data transfer to and from the internet.
The National API Design Standards are broken into 17 sections:
Implementation rules for the API standards
The National API Design Standards can be applied across three categories:
System-level APIs — it’s recommended that these APIs follow the standards
Process-level APIs — these APIs should follow the standards
Experience-level APIs — these APIs must follow the standards
Creating the API design standards
Salsa Digital’s take
APIs are a key tool for digital transformation in government. They have the power to help consolidate government services, and standardisation will make this consolidation easier and provide a shared framework to build on. APIs also form part of Australia’s commitment around sharing, using and reusing government data, and are important to the open data and open government movements.