indian government (1)

The department of electronics and information technology (DeitY) is looking to frame a policy (pdf) for adopting and developing open application programming interfaces (APIs) in government organizations to promote software interoperability for all e-governance applications & systems. The policy shall be applicable to all central government organizations and to those state governments that choose to adopt the policy.

DeitY also said that all information and data of a government organisation shall be made available by open APIs, as per the National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy and adhere to National Cyber Security Policy.

Policy points

– Each published API of a Government organization shall be provided free of charge whenever possible to other government organizations and public.

– Each published API shall be properly documented with sample code and sufficient information for developers to make use of the API.

– The life-cycle of the open API shall be made available by the API publishing Government organisation. The API shall be backward compatible with at least two earlier versions.

– Government organizations may use an authentication mechanism to enable service interoperability and single sign-on.

– All Open API systems built and data provided shall adhere to GoI security policies and guidelines.

Our take: This is a welcome move by the government and needs to be implemented effectively. This would allow anyone to build a website or an application and pull government information into the public domain. Everyone knows navigating a government website can be nightmarish. For example, Indian Railways provides open APIs which enabled the development of applications such as RailYatri. Through the eRail APIs, the application pulls info which includes list of stations, trains between stations, route of a train, Train Fares, PNR Status, Live train status, seat availability, cancelled, rescheduled or diverted train information and current running status of the train. Good luck trying to get the same info from the IRCTC website.

App store pilot: Note the government in 2013 had launched a pilot of its e-governance application store on apps.nic.in. The app store was been designed, developed and hosted by the DeitY through NIC (National Informatics Centre). The apps submitted to the e-Gov app store will be used by various government departments and agencies at the Centre and in the States. The eGov App Store acts as a common repository for developed apps, components and web services that can be used by various government agencies and departments at State and Centre level.

FOSS adoption by the government: Earlier in March, minister for communications and information technology, Ravi Shankar Prasad, said that the government will also be working on an “Open software policy”and that  all proposals for e-governance projects will include a mandatory clause for considering open source software as a preferred option. DeitY had also released a framework (pdf) on open source software adoption in e-governance systems in September 2013. This document outlined the various factors such as cost effectiveness, enhanced competition, minimized piracy, wider choices and technological compatibility based on standards as reasons for the government to adopt OSS to fulfill its software requirements.

Image Credit: Flickr user Mike Smutts