2.3. API policies and other supporting boundary resources

In order for an active and value-producing ecosystem to form around a platform, the platform must support producers by providing them with access to so-called boundary resources. Boundary resources mean the APIs, rules and tools that the platform provides to its producers. A platform must have open APIs for data sharing to be possible at all. Rules define common practices that keep the platform consistent and the quality of third party output high. Tools help the platform’s producers with their work. It is important to note that City divisions and municipally owned companies are also producers on the City’s data platform.

The key boundary resources of the City of Helsinki’s data platform are:

  • APIs (application programming interfaces)
  • API policies
  • the case database on the sharing and utilisation of data
  • the descriptions of information resources and master data
  • the Helsinki profile.

The wide-scale sharing of data will only be possible if the City opens up its data and APIs to others. Because of this, the City has prepared a set of API policies, which mandate that any information system procurements must also include the procurement of an API and the opening thereof insofar as possible within the confines of relevant legislation. Although internally the City can, at least in theory, utilise and share data directly from different systems, bypassing APIs, in the future APIs should be the primary means of utilising and sharing data internally as well. Any deviations from this policy must be justified.

APIs should be considered products. They are typically owned by the City division or municipally owned company that is responsible for the associated service or information system. The City’s APIs will be managed via a centralised management tool to make them easy to find for the City’s internal and external operators and so that their use can be monitored at City level. The management tool will be used to assemble an API register and collect API use data from the information systems of City divisions. Open APIs will be clearly listed for external parties on Helsinki Region Infoshare (HRI), the shared open data service of the cities of the Helsinki region. The City’s API policies are included as an appendix to the Data Strategy.

As a tool and collection of rules to support the data platform, the City will establish an internal case database on the sharing and utilisation of data, which will be administered by the data utilisation working group. The working group will make sure that data sharing is carried out in compliance with information management, data protection and other legislation related to the sharing of data. The process for reviewing new use cases is described in greater detail in Section 5.

The utilisation of data in the ecosystem and between City divisions also requires a shared information model, i.e. descriptions of the data models used in different information systems. The most important of these is the description of the types of master data used throughout City divisions. This is topic is explored in greater detail in Section 3.4. Master data management.

Residents are at the very core of Helsinki’s Data Strategy, which is why Helsinki adheres to MyData principles. Although the data on the city’s residents is possessed and administered by the City, residents can choose how their data is shared with external parties. In accordance with MyData principles, the City is developing a personal Helsinki profile, which will also serve as a common customer account, thus also making it possible to utilise (legislation permitting) it in the combination of data from different registers. The Helsinki profile is examined in greater detail in Section 3.5.