BusinessUSA connects businesses to many government services and information. It does that primarily by providing access to APIs – the instructions that allow software applications to exchange information – but APIs only involve the transfer of data and do not provide a user interface to actually see the data.

Federal CIO Steve VanRoekel has said, “Everything should be an API,” but a recent FCW article suggests that his open data strategy and Digital Government Strategy may have some limitations because of that.

Eric Mill, Web and mobile developer for Sunlight Labs, an arm of the prominent transparency group Sunlight Foundation, wrote in a March 21 blog entry on the Sunlight Labs Blog that APIs should be used to supplement, not displace, the availability of direct data downloads to the public.

Mill presented several reasons why direct data downloads are still the best default strategy. For one, developing government APIs to distribute data might actually limit flexibility for users of the data, Mill wrote.

“There’s no way to predict ahead of time the right data format and structure for every client who’s interested in your data. Expect clients to need to transform your data for their own requirements, and for that transformation to require clients to first obtain all of your data,” Mill wrote.

In addition, creating APIs is time-consuming, expensive and difficult for government agencies, he added. “However, the first step government should take, in nearly all cases, is to offer the data directly and in bulk.”

The Business USA Resource Access API is a service that provides access to resource abstracts including programs, services, data, events, and more, with a simple API call in XML and CSV formats. The problem is there are no links to click on to retrieve the data and no interface to view it. I solve both of those problems.

I am also going to save you a lot of time working with those 8 APIs by giving you a spreadsheet with all of the data and a dashboard where you can see all the data in memory and use it immediately.

First, I give you a table of the data that summarizes what is available and allows you to click on the links and have the data downloaded to your machine.

Next, I summarize some highlights of what the dashboard does: Use the Filters to the Right to Search by Facets: Content type and title. Mouse over the Title and Detail Description. You can highlight individual rows and see them displayed in the Details on Demand to the lower Right. Then Reset All Filters and Unmark Marked Rows and repeat with new searches. Finally you can click on the Web links and go directly to the information.

I think you will agree that seeing, searching, and down loading the data in a visual interface is better than just APIs with no interface.