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U.S. Department of Agriculture

Advocating for API-accessible recreation data

Summary

When the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Recreation.gov contract came up for rebid, the request for proposal (RFP) had insufficient language regarding an API for accessing the website's data layer, called the Recreation Information Database (RIDB). Without a good API in place, the Recreation.gov website would be the only source for browsing national park information from RIDB, thus limiting the potential for mobile and other forward-thinking types of applications. Proposing the right language helped reduce the USDA's risk of procuring the wrong solution.

Illustration of a camping tent enclosed within API computing symbols.

The challenge

The Recreation.gov RFP was going to close in two weeks. To align this effort with its Open Data Policy, the White House sought urgent advice on how to make the RFP more API focused so that the next generation of Recreation.gov could not only serve mobile users, but also foster future innovation via an external API developer community.

The solution

Working as an API evangelist, Kin Lane answered the White House's call-to-civic-action by proposing critical language changes to the RFP to ensure that vendor proposals reflected an API-based solution approach using best practices such as RESTful API design, supporting documentation, and software development kits (or SDKs).

Following the rework and release of the RFP, Kin engaged even further in helping to make the RIDB API a success by building a user and developer community around it, as well as collaborating with industry and government to explore innovative economic models for monetizing access to national park data.

The results

  • Shaped the final RFP for Recreation.gov, which resulted in the development and release of a public RIDB API
  • Facilitated innovative thinking around the monetization of government's public data