Government and APIs

government
ˈɡʌv(ə)nˌm(ə)nt,ˈɡʌvəm(ə)nt/
noun
the group of people with the authority to govern a country or state; a particular ministry in office.
“the government’s economic record”
synonyms:administration, executive, regime, authority, powers that be,directorate, council, leadership, management;

Governance

So there’s this cool thing about being a government: you’re there to govern. This means you’re the one who can build the framework within which we, your population, gets to operate. Your laws and directives are the contracts we have to respect. If there’s a road sign stating you can’t drive faster than 60 mph, then you shouldn’t be driving faster than 60 mph. Obviously you can still decide to drive faster than 60 mph but there are consequences attached to it if or when you get caught by the police. So this is a very liberal implementation of the contract.

APIs power the Internet of Things

For web developers and other programmers this is almost like external APIs. APIs explicitly define the input and the output in an interface and if you don’t follow the input rules then you won’t get your desired output. Let’s say each road segment is magically given an Internet of Things API that allows to find out the maximum speed on that segment and your connected car knows how to talk to the API then it’s easily implemented that your car won’t drive faster than the maximum allowed speed. However, depending on how the car is built, you could loose personal freedom to decide yourself if you want to drive faster or not.

Bureaucracy

A government has lots of administration to do. It used to do this with paper based processes, and to this day paper is still being used, and had well-defined processes for it. Even though back in the seventies the Belgians and French made already bad jokes in bad movies about it (cfr the 1976 animated movie The Twelve Tasks of Asterix from 40 min 14 seconds onwards), 40 years and several e-government try-outs later we’re still not freed from this bureaucratic madness.

Government as a Platform (GaaP)

Instead of building government “app stores” shouldn’t we be focussing on governments that build platforms like Amazon, Facebook, eBay, LinkedIn, Twitter, GitHub and Instagram did in the past five to seven years? They all have (or had) open APIs to grow their own business platform. And with the introduction of oAuth-like identification and authorization systems they managed to delegate access to third party apps. OAuth means I can identify myself with my Google account on platforms like Trello or I can build my own photo editing app and let my users load pictures they already uploaded to their own Instagram or Facebook accounts.

Digital identification & authentication & authorization?

In lots of western democracies governments issue identification cards in one way or the other (however in the USA they usually use a driving license or social security number for identification). Some countries like Belgium or Estonia even use e-ID cards which are powered with a chip. These cards can be used to file your taxes but the problem is most of the times you need a card reader attached to your computer. 2016 will see lots of governments modernizing themselves to become somewhat mobile friendly but I’d like to see them become more like a platform upon which businesses can build and outsource the ID part to a government controlled identification platform to prove a users identity. This can potentially solve the fraud problems businesses like Facebook, Twitter and AirBNB currently have problems with.

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