​ATO to replace 'inadequate' developer experience with SBR API catalogue

The tax office will be scrapping its 'inadequate' Standard Business Reporting system and replacing it with a commercial or open-source API catalogue.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is looking to build a whole-of-government, single entry point for software developers wishing to consume government services under the Standard Business Reporting (SBR) initiative.

Introduced in 2010, the SBR is a standard approach to online or digital record-keeping created by the federal government to simplify business reporting obligations and sits behind many business software packages.

In a request for information (ROI) published on Friday, the ATO notes it is seeking a single vendor to take on the application programming interface (API) project that aims to reduce the "fragmented service" software developers experience when dealing with the current system, starting with replacing the sbr.gov.au site altogether.

"Software developers currently experience a fragmented service when interacting with the ATO," the RFI states.

"They find it difficult to access information, having to communicate across multiple channels, along with many other additional challenges that impact their experience and relationship with the ATO.

"The current software developer experience is not adequate."

IBM was awarded AU$26.6 million in contracts to design and develop core IT systems for the SBR initiative back in 2010, which also made Big Blue responsible for providing ongoing support for the system under a 12-month contract worth an additional AU$2.7 million.

With its new API model, the tax office wants a single entry point for interacting with digital solution providers who build services off government API's, and is open to considering both commercial and open-source products.

"The desire for the SBR Program is to enable all participating regulatory agencies to quickly and easily publish their external-facing APIs in one place," the RFI's supporting information states.

"This provides a single entry point to enable software developers to easily discover and consume government APIs without having to visit and subscribe to multiple different sites."

The ATO is after a "collaborative environment" to support software developer innovation in the delivery of government services by providing an open, collaborative forum where software developers can work with the ATO via communities of interest, as well as have the ability to raise tickets.

The ATO wants this in the form of a digital hub that allows users to easily and quickly find required information, while also consolidating information from multiple channels and sources.

A service catalogue beta is required by late September 2017 to simplify the consumption and publication of ATO Services to be ready by the 2018 "Tax Time" and will be required to support whole-of-government use by multiple partner agencies.

In a future phase, the ATO explained it will be looking to create another instance of the API Catalogue for internal use, where it is intended to provide a similar function for all internal ATO services.

The ATO is seeking a turnkey, preferably Software-as-a-Service capability for an initial contract period of three years to enable this functionality for both ATO internal use and whole-of-government external use.

The SBR fell victim to a slew of outages experienced by the ATO as a result of a "world first" hardware failure that initially took the ATO out in mid-December.

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