APIs & web services in the public sector: Overcoming longstanding challenges

The UK public sector has made leaps and bounds on its collective digital transformation journey, particularly in the last couple of years. Organisations across public services have noticed and harnessed the power of digitisation – tackling even the most complex legacy system challenges with technologies such as RPA. However, there’s still one niggle we haven’t quite been able to crack – APIs and Web Services. And, unfortunately, these technologies are often the key to true end-to-end transformation.  

Luckily, 2023 marks a huge cornerstone in this struggle, with the release of Connect offering a no-code solution with the potential to open up a whole new world of intelligence. In this edition of Tech Bytes, we’re taking a closer look at web services and APIs in the public sector – and how to unlock the power of the possible.  

What is an API? 

Standing for Application Programming Interface, APIs allow different software components to communicate with each other – meaning they’re often the keys to harnessing the power of integration. They use set definitions and protocols to connect client and server – the client is the application sending the request, and the server is the application sending its response. There are a number of different kinds of APIs available, with the most common being RESTful, SOAP and web service connections.  

APIs are often used to connect processes and technologies – as well as other additions to digital projects, such as DVLA data, Google Maps embedding or cognitive services. They can also be used in integrations, connecting different systems together to allow a secure flow of data between locations. Where available, they’re often the easiest and fastest way to connect two separate digital entities – but only if you know how to use them. 

What is a web service? 

Web services can seem complex, but really, it’s just a catch-all term for any internet-based data exchange system that interoperates through standardised web protocols (HTTP or HTTPS). A web service usually uses application-to-application (A2A) communication to send data back and forth through something like a standardised Extensible Markup Language (XML) messaging system. Web services can be applications, software or cloud technology – and they can process anything from messages and documents to programs and objects.  

If that’s still a little confusing, there are plenty of examples to put that in perspective – such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform and Google’s Web Service. All of these technologies simply allow different organisations and applications to communicate from multiple sources – passing information across in a safe, secure manner through programmatic interfaces across networks. 

Public sector API & web service challenges  

As mentioned, web services and APIs are in high demand in the public sector. Allowing everything from the integration of legacy systems to the introduction of third-party data services in processing, these kinds of connections are invaluable within end-to-end digital transformation. However, this isn’t as easy as it sounds.  

While APIs are a fantastic way to uplift digital processes, adding a whole new level of capabilities, they do often involve a great deal of complex coding to implement. Within the public sector, this experience isn’t always readily available – and when it is, it’s often at capacity. This has been a key issue for public services across the UK, not just in APIs, but in every element of digital transformation. So how do we overcome this hurdle? 

Overcoming barriers with no-code connectors  

Low and no-code technologies have been at the forefront of public digital transformation. Allowing complex digital processes to be created without the need for advanced coding has supercharged the UK public sector’s digital journey, harnessing the power of code through graphic-led drag-and-drop development studios. And the introduction of NDL’s Evolve Digital Transformation Platform takes this facilitation to the next level, with its no-code API and Web Service product, Connect, which provides:  

  • A library of pre-defined connectors, allowing you to access a library of commonly used and highly demanded APIs and web services without any configuration 
  • An API import wizard, allowing you to set up your own APIs through a guided, graphical process 
  • The ability to send and receive data through RESTful APIs with no code  
  • Easy integration with Digitise Apps and eForms, as well as end-to-end processing with Automate and Flow 

Connect has been developed specifically for the public sector, with every feature designed to overcome longstanding API and web service challenges. To learn more about the power of Connect and how it could benefit your organisation, don’t hesitate to book your free demo or get in touch with a member of the team to share your requirements. Looking for more inspiration? Join us at one of our upcoming online and in-person events - all free to attend for members of the public sector - and browse our collection of real-life success stories