How Smart Cities Are Promoting API Usage

APIs are increasingly being released by city authorities around the world as a programmatic way for community organizations and businesses to interact with city open data. Cities are running hackathons or civic hacking events to encourage reuse of city datasets.

APIs are discussed in terms of their benefits to civic engagement through greater transparency, for more efficient delivery of government services, and as an enabler of a new wave of local industry innovation. The growing international focus on the “smart city” — in which open data, e-government, and real-time sensor feeds contribute to more automated and sustainable city functioning — will also rely heavily on APIs in order to make much of that agenda possible.

But the truth is, cities around the world are only starting on the API journey. Many have commenced with open data portals that were published with an ad-hoc collection of historical data released, and then left to stagnate as uptake was limited. Others focused on civic hacking events that gave rise to sporadic events that built some app prototypes and not much more. Few cities are focused on creating transactional APIs that would enable citizens and local businesses to engage with services directly via API, with perhaps Open 311 being the only example of civic engagement and service delivery provided via API. While there are many successes across the globe, there is also much more work to do.

Here is a look at four city examples from around the globe. We look at some of the key trends demonstrated by these case studies, and highlight the progress that is emerging and the challenges ahead. … (read more)