CIO50 2020 #26-50 Jithma Beneragama, Department of Premier and Cabinet
As executive director, digital, design and innovation at the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Jithma Beneragama and his team identified common digital infrastructure that they believed would benefit Victoria.
In recent years, data flow between Victorian government departments was identified as an issue that needed to be addressed.
For instance, the 2016 Royal Commission into Family Violence found lives could have been saved if case information flowed more easily between departments.
Each year, numerous IT projects are run to connect disparate systems. But these large, siloed and bespoke projects were run separately, and didn’t take advantage of reusable components, which increased cost and created waste.
“I wanted us to have a catalogue of APIs that our internal developers or our partners could access and use to deliver faster, leaving them with more time and resources to innovate," Beneragama tells CIO Australia.
"Ultimately, we needed to create an environment where teams across government could come together and create innovative solutions for the communities that we serve.”
To simplify the state’s tech architecture and create common and reusable digital infrastructure, Beneragama successfully advocated that the Victorian government take an API approach to integration, a centralised API gateway for the government, API standards, and a sandbox environment to innovate, develop and test APIs.
He also advocated for the creation of ‘developer.vic’, Australia’s first whole-of-government shared API portal, where all VIC government APIs are catalogued, as well as the use of open APIs where appropriate.
Developer.Vic provides agencies with access to a growing number of standardised and reusable APIs that solve common problems across government and provide the community with better access to government data.
Supporting this move to an API-first approach, Victoria is collaborating with the developer community to shape its API standards and has created a whole-of-government API Technology and Design Steering Committee from within the Victorian government.
“Recognising the value that API standards are bringing to Victoria, I raised the idea of national API standards through the Australian Digital and Data Council," Beneragama recalls. "Victoria led the development of a national API standard, which was released in December 2019.”
The team had previously convinced departments to share specific applications, but a catalogue of APIs to support core infrastructure was a new negotiation.
Using this approach, the department ended up with reusable infrastructure and APIs. A simple example is address look up.
"Using our API-first approach and standards we have worked with the Department of Environment and Water, Land and Planning to create a reusable API to create a standardised way of doing this task," Beneragama explains.
"Then by listing it within developer.vic (internal access only), it is now being used as a standardised pre-built tool across government. This approach is creating savings both in development and ongoing operations.”
The open API focus is also driving economic returns from government-held data.
For example, large volumes of 'valuable soils data' from across the state - held by Agriculture Victoria was released publicly for the first time in a machine usable format as an open API.
Beneragama and his team also developed Single digital presence, an open source publishing platform that can be used quickly to deploy digital services.
In the early days of the pandemic when Australia went into lockdown, the platform was used to stand up a service that allowed workers who had lost their jobs to due to restrictions to sign up for support.
“The team was briefed in the late afternoon, developed the service that evening, and deployed the next morning,” he says. “Over the next few days, it served hundreds of concurrent users every minute and many tens of thousands of Victorians registered for the support they needed.
“The platform has also been used to create a central information hub – vic.gov.au/coronavirus - designed around the needs of Victorians dealing with the pandemic,” he says.