Topical & Tangible: Application Programming Interfaces with Chris Murphy (USAID)

Apr 18, 2013 by  Comments (0)

APIs provide access to information and transmit it to end users via applications.

Chris Murphy, Software Engineer and Communications & Knowledge Management Analyst at USAID, recently shared his insights on the importance of information sharing and how APIs can facilitate that. Here are some highlights:

“By the time we wait for data to be cleared [by superiors for sharing] the world could have passed us by. We each need to control when we think data is good to post and do it.”- Chris Murphy

Chris Murphy used the example of sharing images from USAID in Picasa versus Flickr. The first one, which is USAID supported, rendered fewer sharing activity. On the other hand, Flickr led to over 22,000 uploads and even more when the search was done by using keywords (under the word USAID, the search rendered 37,000 images). 

This is merely an example of good API (Application Programming Interface) use. APIs can help spur knowledge, as staff can post anything from anywhere and learning becomes public. There are many examples of APIs that USAID staff need to know and become more comfortable using, such as dashboards across the whole Agency (e.g., Phoenix, GLAAS, AIDTracker). 

Another great example of API is blogging. Rather than sending individual emails as responses to questions, Murphy answers questions on “Chris’s Blogs” and emails the questioner the link, with the blog remaining on USAID’s site for others to access in the future ( This is not only fast, but also encourages information sharing beyond immediate needs.  

Additionally, Murphy backs up such rich tacit knowledge on Developedia. This is vital since project-funded websites can disappear when the projects end, which means that USAID invested resources and all the knowledge capture fades. Using tools like Developedia, Basecamp, and other management tools, USAID can guarantee that knowledge sharing will continue long after the end of a project and despite staff turnover.