State API & Equal Shared Access
In WA, our State & Liquor Control Board (LCB) have created an awesome advancement in the system of Public <-> Government data interaction. The Traceability API. This is a massive improvement over existing methods that business have with communicating with their respective governments.
The intent of any API is to provide fair and equal data access to any/all organizations with the desire and technical skill for integration.
In WA, this Traceability API has been given a single vendor who is responsible for the State Internal System, Traceability API, Public Fair Access System, Commercial Solution.
The State Internal System is what is used by the LCB and the Traceability API is directly integrated here – these two components are difficult to separate and it makes sense for one vendor for a Core piece and the first level of access (APIs).
Our vendor was also chosen to make the Public Fair Access website at http://www.mjtraceability.com/ – any and all licensees can use this system with no cost. This is similar to the systems (built by external vendors) that our Departments of Revenue, Licensing and others make available. However, those systems are not outside of the 'wa.gov' domain, or prominently branded with the vendors logo.
This vendor makes a third critical component of the chain as well – a Commercial Solution for businesses in the I-502 space – Producers, Processors, Retailers and soon to be Distributors (Support SB-6178!)
There are some serious issues with this current configuration.
Unfair API Access: This vendor, performs this design build in-house. They may even (likely?) employ the same engineers to work on any of these four key components. Internally and API is built, it's added to the next build of the PFA system and to their Commercial solution. Then documentation is published. External access for outside integrators is delayed, internally their systems receive updates well before public announcements.
Hidden Designs: Making APIs public, earlier, forces these APIs to follow more and better best practices. Systems constructed in shadow do have the benefit of many eyeballs to polish off the rough edges, provide testing and verify integrations.
Direct Internal Competition: Our vendor is constructing two systems that can reasonably compete with each other: The PFA and Commercial solution. This is clearly A House Divided.
Heavy Branding: This is the second State integrated system that is hosted on an external domain (the first is https://mygoodtogo.com/). And this is the only State integrated system where the vendor is mention, in a focus location on the home page.
Ideas for Improvement: A clear separation of duties here would benefit everyone. A core team dedicated to the State's Internal system and it's public interface (API). A second, independent team building the Public Fair Access system from this API. Leaving the third part – Commercial System Integrators all on the same level playing field.