Date:
13 October 2021
Author:
Phillipa Martin

Apidays Australia 2021

At Apidays Australia on 16 September, Carolynne  Hamilton and Matthew Kirkey from Digital Victoria talked about Victoria’s API Marketplace in their presentation, Accelerating Connected Data Initiatives to Drive Economic Outcomes. 

Carolynne, Acting Executive Director of Digital, Design and Innovation, started the 30-minute session by looking at APIs (application programming interfaces) as a way to standardise how systems connect together.  She spoke about Victoria’s commitment to open APIs, and introduced Digital Victoria and current current initiatives to support the digital economy, such as:

The new API Marketplace is another example of how the government is supporting a thriving digital economy. She also touched on some recent successes, including Single Digital Presence and MyVic.

The API Marketplace — historical context

Mathew Kirkey (Product Manager of the API Marketplace) started his part of the session by focusing on how the idea for the Marketplace evolved from traditional marketplaces in the centre of cities. These marketplaces  drove investment and improved economic outcomes for citizens. Government helped marketplaces by building infrastructure like roads and railway lines to increase trade, access and opportunities. The Digital Vic team asked themselves what that help would look like in a digital world.  

Around the time of these brainstorming sessions in 2019, Deloitte looked at the startup ecosystem and identified a strong link between connected data and economic growth. So VicGov asked ‘What can we do to expedite data connection and accelerate growth?’

That was 2019...and then the pandemic hit. 

The work was then revisited more recently, through the lens of helping the state’s growth after the negative economic impact of the pandemic.  The VicGov team reached out to Google Cloud, and discovered they’d recently completed a report looking at how the pandemic had affected organisations that use APIs. The results showed that 75% of these organisations continued transformation despite the pandemic, with 65% accelerating their transformation. And APIs were leading the way. 

Consultation for the API Marketplace

To evolve the idea of the Marketplace, VicGov spoke to different organisations and groups to look at the problem space and solutions. Specifically, they spoke to:

  • Google Cloud and Deloitte Digital, who helped develop the platform with VicGov

  • Industry and organisations that were modernising their legacy systems using API, noting this was often broken into a two-stage strategy:

    1. Move systems into the cloud using internal APIs

    2. Use external APIs to create new revenue streams

  • Organisations that had created API developer portals — noting that these were often under-utilised,  partly because of the effort to onboard new users and partly because of discoverability problems

  • Developers and startups, who shared two main pain points:

    1. The discoverability of new integrations and data sources 

    2. Barriers for testing if potential integrations were fit-for-purpose and building prototypes

Considering these inputs, the question was: What could government do to help organisations, developers and startups? Enter the API Marketplace.

What is the API Marketplace? 

The API Marketplace is a free, open platform built on Google Cloud Apigee technology. Providers deploy non-production APIs to the platform for developers to find and use.  The non-production APIs  mirror the production APIs to provide a sandbox environment so developers can get quick and easy access. Then, the  next stage is to forward devs to the providers for the normal onboarding process and access to production APIs. 

Benefits of the API Marketplace

There are many benefits of the Marketplace, such as:

  • Providers can see which APIs are being used/popular
  • Developers can easily find APIs and build prototypes
  • Developers deliver more value to their users 
  • The platform is neutral — VicGov doesn’t have a commercial interest
  • It enables faster collaboration

“We’re not just building a platform here...we’re actively speaking with organisations to promote and support connected data initiatives,” said Mathew Kirkey. “We want to help businesses succeed in the sector and drive economic growth in the area.”

Beta of API Marketplace

The API Marketplace currently has a ‘closed’ Beta platform. Digital Victoria is onboarding participants to test the platform and to provide feedback to improve the experience. You can register at data.vic.gov.au/api-marketplace

Once the platform is released more widely, Digital Victoria is keen to host a hackathon to put rapid prototyping functionality to the test.

API marketplaces in other jurisdictions

The Victorian Government’s initiative to create an API marketplace appears to be relatively unique. Other jurisdictions have API catalogues listing mostly government APIs; not a marketplace for industry APIs. Below are some examples we found of what other jurisdictions are doing: 

  • Australia — at a national level we have the API catalogue (api.gov.au), which is a collection of publicly listed APIs that have been shared by government teams. It’s a joint initiative between the Digital Transformation Agency and Australian Taxation Office to help promote innovation and digital transformation in government.

  • NSW — API.nsw is designed to give developers, researchers and others access to APIs as well as the ability to publish their own APIs. Currently it has mainly NSW Government APIs listed, with both free and premium subscription access.

  • Canada — Canada’s API store is a mature, government-backed API catalogue that’s well documented and includes the ability to trial the APIs with test data from the site itself. It provides APIs to access government data and information to help build new applications and services for Canadians.

  • Singapore — Singapore’s API Marketplace is a catalogue of APIs, but it seems to be focused solely on government-generated APIs (no industry APIs) with three main categories across payroll and income, property and accounting, and taxation.

Salsa Digital’s take

Victoria’s API Marketplace is a wonderful, cutting-edge initiative and platform that has the potential to make a real difference in data connections in Victoria and beyond. We’re looking forward to seeing how it drives API use...and to test driving the platform ourselves!