How APIs are at the core of the EU data economy

Highlighting the challenges and suggesting next steps for boosting API uptake in the European Digital Single Market.

Proposed two years ago by the European Commission’s Vice President Ansip, the European Commission Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy aims to remove obstacles to ensure a vibrant European digital market. One aspect is to focus on a European data economy and specifically the role of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) in opening more opportunities.

Central nervous system of the data economy

APIs are not a new technology. But in today’s app economy, they have become vital to almost every aspect of business success. Succeeding in today’s digital world means connecting products to customer needs, customers to experiences, apps to devices, and organizations to partner eco-systems.

And it means connecting systems to other systems, software to other software, and data to just about everything. At the same time, these connections must be made quickly, accurately, securely, and at scale.

All of these connections create tremendous complexity— which is where application programming interfaces (APIs) come in.

Challenges and solutions: Four recommendations to boost API uptake in the DSM

A recent European Commission consultation on the data economy, posed specific questions around APIs. It was positive to see that 68% of respondents clearly support the increased use of APIs.

We want to further highlight what we see as challenges and suggest next steps.

First, security. In a recent study commissioned by CA Technologies, respondents indicated security was one of the highest concerns when thinking about opening up their data through APIs.

  • A continued focus on the need for security across various sectors needs to be integral in any policy initiative.
  • Organizations need to demonstrate a strong “security by design” approach when developing products and services. We believe that such an approach will allow for increased confidence and trust in an API driven economy.

 

Second, a voluntary labelling or certification scheme for secure, developer-friendly APIs. Such a scheme should enable transparency as it would allow developers to quickly assess the readiness of an organization’s (government and private sector) API strategy. Some questions that could be looked at are: technical documentation, security, etc. It could note whether the APIs align with international, industry driven standards. Future labelling systems could note whether entities incorporate secure development processes in the development of applications and APIs, based on international, industry-driven standards.

Third, skills. In the same CA study, respondents indicated that a big hurdle in API adoption is a lack of skilled resources. This reflects how businesses are taking on broader—and more external—use of APIs in the digital era. This requires new and different skillsets. We call on the European Commission to continue their efforts in promoting the need for new skills, like in the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition which CA Technologies is supporting.

Finally, we recommend that the EU focus on promoting the high-level best practices in API development, leveraging public data sets as an example. The upcoming review of the Public Sector Information (PSI) Directive will be an opportunity to further do so. To that extent, we call for a clear Digital by Default principle in addition to an API first policy.

Moving forward

We believe that government can partner with industry to develop API policies and promote best practices. We will work with governments in the EU on how to further bolster their role around these four recommendations. To that extent, we are looking forward to speaking at the European Commission’s workshop on June 8th in Brussels on data access and the role of APIs.


Ian Clark is Senior Director API Management Solution Sales at CA. As Business Unit leader…

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