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Draft Policy on Open APIs for Government of India [pdf] (mygov.in)
177 points by manikantan on Nov 2, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 24 comments

Super excited by the Indian Government's focus on e-governance and technology!

Also see http://attendance.gov.in/ -- This is such a beautifully designed website that it blows my mind that the Government designed it!

Our startup ClearTax ( http://cleartax.in ) is made possible by the APIs of the Indian IRS.

The APIs aren't completely open but the registration process is not very onerous. The most interesting aspect is that the Indian IRS is keen on improving the APIs. When we make bug reports, they usually push fixes within 48 hours which is almost unexpected from the Government! Not everything is great but its one of the most advanced tax APIs in the world imo. The bug reporting process is a bit broken, but after the bug was reported they called us back and gave us information about the fix!

I am also deeply optimistic about India's progress in the next decade because of the new PM and the strong focus on development. See also: http://www.makeinindia.com/ a new initiative by the Government to get entrepreneurs building in India.

Incidentally, attendance.gov.in seems to be down. Perhaps someone can confirm from their side.

As for the design - they've used a stock "analytics" template based on bootstrap (as I remember seeing in their source code when the site was up, having been surprised at the design goodness myself!).

One of the most interesting things is that the Modi government is _not_ pioneering biometrics attendance. It's been around since 2009 [1] and an early version of the dashboard did exist, but on a domain that languishes with disuse. So if anything, there are pushes being made with a lot of PR about tightening this and that - but honestly, in the 6 months that the new government has been in power, I'm hardpressed to find _real_ measures of technological advancement in terms of policy or implementation. And let's be realistic - 6m is not enough time for any advancement in technology at the scale at which it needs to be meaningful.

I would give them props on the dahsboard being made anew, but unfortunately, that has also been frought with glaring issues. [2]

For now - fingers crossed.

[1] http://www.babusofindia.com/2010/08/chidambaram-to-tighten-a...

[2] https://medium.com/@troysk704/attendance-gov-in-4e87acae39b7

Let's do a bit of political sleuthing and indulge in a smidgen of sincere speculation, here.

This is not to judge his leadership early but to set realistic expectations in a country where hope in transformational leaders, is all too often, cruelly crushed.

So lets ask this: what clues has Mr. Modi left so far - in the present term and in his previous stints as the Chief Minister of Gujarat - to lead us to believe that he is a stickler for lasting change and not impetuous acts of political theater.

Does his track record show a penchant for thoroughness and completion?

He is known not to trust underlings, delegate little and in general not given to relinquishing control.[1]

Again these are early days, but is anyone prepared to share their hunch on how effective this man will prove to be in transforming India, say four years on?

[1] Defying Expectations in India, Modi Begins Key Trip to U.S.


Can you please share a link where I could find all government APIs? If there is none, can you tell us more about how to get the APIs?

1. Build a small, centralized team to assist every department with API design (not implementation). This would help keep things relatively consistent and interoperable, and may also assist in component reuse.

2. Design in the open — publish proposed APIs early and get public feedback, preferably at a single place (apidocs.gov.in?).

3. Build a centralized authentication/authorization system with libraries for all the popular languages. Mandate that every department with sensitive data use it rather than roll their own.

4. Other than that, give implementation teams freedom to make their own technology and architectural choices. Express a preference for, but do not mandate, open standards. (It goes without saying that HTTP/REST and JSON should be added to the list of preferred open standards!)

5. Mandate that all implementations be open source (provide a standard license) with a public issue tracker and pull request mechanism. Provide a centralized project hosting with these features, but allow project teams to use alternatives if they choose.

For the Indian government it’s very remarkable that (1) they are thinking about open APIs and (2) they’ve published a draft, presumably for feedback although there is no information on how one might provide it.

The title of this post is misleading though. It should be "…input on upcoming policy for Open Data and E-Governance APIs". There is no specific API here, just a rather broad set of guidelines for each government department to build their own APIs.

Most of the actual guidelines seem to be on the three documents linked from this one. Unfortunately two of them are on a domain with certificate errors, and one leads to a 404. Here are the two that work (at least if you accept a certificate issued to egovstandards.gov.in by "Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers Company Ltd."):



Edit: These documents are only tangentially related to the Open API project. The first one is a broad catalogue of acceptable data formats in “e-governance”, the second are guidelines for how government departments must upload data sets to data.gov.in.

although there is no information on how one might provide it.

On Page 4:

All queries or comments related to the “Policy on Open APIs for Government of India” shall be directed to the Joint Secretary (e-Governance), DeitY at jsegov@deity.gov.in.

Aah, I stand corrected. Although I do hope someone from deity (clever name) also reads HN.

The UK Govt API http://data.gov.uk/ is a good place to start and study.

Here are the 7 design principles that guided them in the design process

1. Start with needs* 2 Do less 3 Design with data 4 Do the hard work to make it simple 5 Iterate. Then iterate again. 6 Build for inclusion 7 Understand context 8 Build digital services, not websites 9 Be consistent, not uniform 10 Make things open: it makes things better

Here is more about that https://www.gov.uk/design-principles#first

Providing an API is good. Developers would come up with many innovative solutions. One of my friend built an android app to find location based loo finder using the data public domain.

Not sure if you guys are aware about the data sets which are already publicly available.


It's very important to have this data machine readable, query-able and inter-operable.

1. I suggest that it should be available in RDF (http://www.w3.org/TR/2014/NOTE-rdf11-primer-20140624/) format.

2. The government should create a Top level ontology to define the broad level classes and relations.

3. Each department would then create their own child ontology which they can map with the top level ontology.

4. This satisfies most of the requirements and has scope to grow and make this platform truly open.

The work done by wikipedia (along with researchers) in the form of dbpedia (http://dbpedia.org/About) is very good example and can be set as a north star.

JSON. No XML please. Please!

EDIT: The entire doc is completely light on details. It doesn't say anything apart from the fact that every department needs to have an API.

It needs

1. More technical details.

2. What data, as a bare minimum, each government department needs to expose via the API.

3. Timeframe for compliance.

It appears to be a DRAFT! Filename: Draft_Policy_on_Open_APIs.pdf

Edited: From sec 6, point 1: A more detailed guidelines will come after public comment.

   6. Implementation Mechanism
   i) GoI shall formulate detailed implementation guidelines for rapid and effective adoption of the policy.

There's this notion that "you get what you measure."

Therefore, it would be good to see metrics that reveal how corruption cases at various levels are being dealt with.

Not trying to be negative about India, it's just that having the ability to measure this will allow people to see where positive changes is happening, and where it is not.

I would have the same kinds of comments if this were a US API: what tools is it giving us to see what the inspector general is and is not doing for various aspects of government performance.

This is the same government that is mandating compulsory biometric IDs for its population with nary a thought about security. Its a mess, third party contractors with no exposure to IT or security are doing the scanning and data entry right now despite the Indian supreme court saying this should not be made mandatory. This is a government that is openly violating its own supreme court.

Hi - Created a Github Repo to add design, APIs and Code Samples as soon as they are available.


There are two important documents that you can take a look at and provide you feedback.

I think sharing these files in a forum like setup will help to easily share, discuss and capture the feedback. Any suggestion?

1. Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy: http://goo.gl/VdWH9o

2. Interoperability Framework: http://goo.gl/MKrqY4

The problem is this would take a long time.You are talking about removing a large quantity of paperwork from organisations which move to bigger offices to accommodate the paper work. And also when it comes to security,You saw what Anonymous did to Ukrainian government.The government in itself is not capable of such a large endeavour.I hope the implementing organisation selection depends more on their reputation instead of tenders and briberies.

You are underestimating what Indian Govt can do. Until recently (two months back), I was part of Ministry of Corporate Affairs, which completely eliminated paper for company registration. The implementation project started sometime in 2006 and was rolled out pan-India by 2008. Since 2009, no physical paper is used for registration; all are done electronically. Company registration in India now takes a week which used to take 3 months until 2006. It's a huge success. Similar thing is done for Passports too.

My personal opinion: stop focusing on the technology of how to put it out there and just put it out there. Another API is another API that open data developers need to work with, which may or may not be better than any of the existing solutions (Data.json, CKAN, ESRI, the UN data platform, etc).

If they really want to create open government, just post up the raw files on an ftp server and open it to the public.

Edit: a typo

Someone somewhere in the huge machinery that is the Indian Government clearly has a sense of humor. To quote,

All queries or comments related to the “Policy on Open APIs for Government of India” shall be directed to the Joint Secretary (e-Governance), DeitY at jsegov@deity.gov.in (emphasis mine).

Presumably that is the email address to send feedback to.

DeitY - Department of Electronics and Information Technology (http://deity.gov.in/)

Its great Govt is finally understanding the need for 'Accessible' data and solutions.

Hopefully this will bring in more transparency and efficiency in otherwise slow and opaque system.

So Indian government way of doing things. Long MS Word document with fluff language and big words, but no sample API.

What kind of data exactly would be accessible?

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