I recently helped with a student project. The goal was to explore ways to replace the 30+ mobile apps used by New York City with a WhatsApp bot.
For most of the services, the only way to get to the info (e.g. school closures, trash collection, street parking) is to web scrape the information, which is time-consuming, error-prone and brittle. In some cases, there is an API (XML or JSON) hidden somewhere and not documented.
Instead, what if each city could offer a REST API to provide access to key information to let non-profits, private companies, civic hackers build the tools they want to build on top of this information?
This idea is not new.
- In the UK, the mantra of GDS (Government Digital Services) is “build digital services, not websites”.
- A few years ago while at Google, I worked on an extension of Schema.org to support the description of government services.
- are you aware of cities doing this?
- what information would you like to see in the API?