The Government API

A couple of weeks ago I attended a conference where there was a lot of talk about Business Process Automation (BPA) and Service Oriented Architecture (SOA).

Disclaimer: Yes, I do lead a very exciting life, even if attending such a conference may indicate otherwise.

You’re probably familiar with the story: Companies are increasingly wrapping their legacy systems, back office processing and other components of their day-to-day operations with web service interfaces in order to integrate with a newer breed of software that usually comes with some flavor of WS interfaces out of the box. Then, using Business Process Management they link all of these together, practically describing their businesses as elegantly written computer programs – the cafeteria included. The holy grail is then to automate as much of this as utterly possible – all leading to an increase in productivity, lower costs, more revenues and happy investors.

The concept is great and several companies have excelled at this – while most are probably struggling. This is after all a huge task and requires a change of mind no less than a change of technologies. But that’s besides the point here.

At the conference the following truth dawned upon me: As companies automate more of their operations, not only within, but also in interacting with other businesses (electronic bills, automated orders, etc), a critical part of their ecosystem is being left out: The Government.

So here’s an idea: Let’s wrap a government in an easy to use API – a Web Service interface that will fit nicely into the world of Business Process Automation.

All the mundane, numbing and often error prone tasks of running a company could be automated and integrated with the company’s own infrastructure. Filing of tax reports, filing salaries statements, filing summer vacation payments, filing changes in corporate ownership, issuing new stock, etc., etc. and doing it all in the right way at the right time without anything falling through the cracks – all taken care of automatically by the rules set up in the Business Process Automation system. Sweet!

In this lies a huge opportunity for some small, technically advanced nation that is well integrated in the international legal and business environment. It could really set itself apart in the world by catering to companies that are far along the path of BPA – and new companies that are set up in such a way from day one. These are probably most often sophisticated companies in the IT, financial or other high value industries. If done correctly, this could be no less valuable than tax incentives, already offered in various havens around the globe. Obviously it would need to be competitive there, but not ridiculously so – which in turn would keep the country on friendly terms in international politics, where tax havens are often frowned upon.

This could even lead the way to the world’s first fully automated company – a concept that is probably material for another entry.

Once in place – there is a plenty of derived services that service companies could offer using the same methodology. Companies need banks, financial and auditing services, legal services, IT-infrastructure (email, web hosting, etc) and a whole lot of other stuff a lot of which could be offered as web services if approached correctly. This would make the deal even more attractive to the companies and bring even more value to the nation in question as it would fuel local busines.

It so happens that Iceland – my very home country – seems in many ways well suited to take this step. Good IT infrastructure, many government tasks already electronic at least to some extent, well integrated in the international legal environment, good financial infrastructure and most importantly – a small and highly interconnected society were everybody knows everyone else, essential in order to pull the API-fication off relatively fast.

In any case, I’m sure this will happen somewhere sooner than later and I for one would certainly look into founding my next company where such infrastructure is in place.

Can’t wait to invoke the FormCompany() method, let’s just hope that the FileForBancruptcy() call will not have to be used 🙂


  1. Áfram Ísland, þetta myndi pottþétt laða að fleiri fyrirtæki, sér í lagi algjörlega sjálfvirku fyrirtækin, og sennilega er Ísland komið lengra í þessu heldur en flest önnur lönd.

  2. Gott og blessað. Er búinn að vera í þessum bransa um nokkurt skeið og skilningur á þessum málum er sáralítill hérlendis. Norðurlöndin standa okkur mun framar t.d.

    Fyrir mér hefur IT snúist alltof mikið um T-ið, en ekki nóg um I-ið og því er mér annt um slagorðið sem fyrirtækið mitt notar: “Putting the I back in IT”.

    Ég hef oft sagt að stoðirnar undir slík verkefni liggja í frekari þroska á IT málum hjá fyrirtækjum og stofnunum. Það er mikið sem mætti miklu betur fara undir yfirborðinu… Við stærum okkur oft af því að vera framarlega, en það er stundum ansi grunnt á því.

  3. Sammála Siggi, við erum að dragast aftur úr þarna. Tækifærið er engu að síður stórt.

    Í rauninni er augljóst að það þarf einhverskonar “Government API” á öll ríki heimsins. Þetta er bara spurning um í hvaða röð það er gert. Ísland er sennilega ekki best undir það búið, en etv. væri hægt að vinna því brautargengi á tiltölulega skömmum tíma og sökum smæðar er þetta minna (engu að síður mikið) mál en víðast hvar annarsstaðar.

  4. Forsætisráðuneytið er eitthvað byrjað á þessu með Þeir eru núna einmitt að skilgreina samskiptastaðla.

    Mæli með því Hjálmar að þú setjir þig í samband við þá.

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