API Definition: U.S. Data Federation

This is an article from the current edition of the API Evangelist industry guide to API definitions. The guide is designed to be a summary of the world of API definitions, providing the reader with a recent summary of the variety of specifications that are defining the technology behind almost every part of our digital world.

The U.S. Data Federation is a federal government effort to facilitate data interoperability and harmonization across federal, state, and local government agencies by highlighting common data formats, API specifications, and metadata vocabularies. The project is focusing on being a coordinating interoperability across government agencies by showcasing and supporting use cases that demonstrate unified and coherent data architectures across disparate agencies, institutions, and organizations.

The project is designed to shine a light on “emerging data standards and API initiatives across all levels of government, convey the level of maturity for each effort, and facilitate greater participation by government agencies”--definitely in alignment with the goal of this guide. There are currently seven projects profiled as part of the U.S. Data Federation, including Building & Land Development Specification, National Information Exchange Model, Open Referral, Open311, Project Open Data, Schema.org, and the Voting Information Project.

By providing a single location for agencies to find common schema documentation tools, schema validation tools, and automated data aggregation and normalization capabilities, the project is hoping to incentivize and stimulate reusability and interoperability across public data and API implementations. Government agencies of all shapes and sizes can use the common blueprints available in the U.S. Data Federation to reduce costs, speed up the implementation of projects, while also opening them up for augmenting and extending using their APIs, and common schema.

It is unclear what resources the U.S. Data Federation will have available in the current administration, but it looks like the project is just getting going, and intends to add more specifications as they are identified. The model reflects an approach that should be federated and evangelized at all levels of government, but also provides a blueprint that could be applied in other sectors like healthcare, education, and beyond. Aggregating common data formats, API specifications, metadata vocabularies, and authentication scopes will prove to be critical to the success of the overall climate of almost any industry doing business on the web in 2017.

 If you have a product, service, or story you think should be in the API Evangelist industry guide to API design you can email me , or you can submit a Github issue for my API definition research, and I will consider adding your suggestion to the road map.