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Can APIs help UK economy after Brexit?

Smaller players can capture value despite the challenges of the post-Brexit economic environment, says Dr Amjad Fayoumi, lecturer in information systems in the Management Science department at Lancaster University Management School.

In today’s interconnected and complex global economy, the digital landscape is driving the change led by application programmable interfaces (APIs). APIs play a major role in shifting industries toward further servitisation and utilisation of both internal and external capabilities and resources to create innovative knowledge-based services.

The idea of APIs fundamentally emerged with the development of service-oriented architecture (SOA) and the decoupling mechanism in web services which enabled more applications and data to be streamlined and integrated beyond single organisation boundaries.

The promises were this technology would enable people to develop apps using their domain expertise without having to worry too much about advanced programming skills.  Furthermore, APIs helped in building digital societies where the physical and digital worlds are fused. By using APIs, acquiring functions and data became much easier in an open digital ecosystem where millions of APIs are either available for free or for small fees.

Currently, the UK is operating under the EU market law and trading internationally is governed through EU regulations. Exposing local SMEs to an ever-expanding global market without preparation is extremely risky.  Government will find it difficult to prepare the market for the Brexit aftershock, taking into account that the global economy is dynamic, there is high fluctuation in the availability of resources, capabilities, services, and prices.

After the nation voted to leave the EU,  fundamental economic changes were expected. For example, if the UK decided not to stay within the single market (the European Economic Area) it is likely trade will fall more, leading to a 2.6% decrease in income per person (The independent, 2016).

Many international companies were expected to leave the UK (some already have) as they  lose competitive advantages of being in the single market, where they avoid  trade tariffs, which in return will cause a loss of job opportunities.

In the same way,  UK-based companies might lose competitive advantages in offering products and services to European countries, due to both added tariffs and a manpower scarcity.

Potentially, UK-based companies will lose the advantages of accessing cheap labour from Southern and Eastern European countries, and profit margins will decline.

Nevertheless, many organisations worldwide are fully virtualising their capabilities and services with an intention to make them available for wider customers. By doing this, business  collaborations and relations will strengthen, on a win-win basis.

It is crucial to explore the how APIs can potentially support local businesses, in particular SMEs, in utilising global resources to maximise benefits and reduce cost. APIs can offer the required agility to handle fluctuation in the global economic landscape.

API-based solution to rectify the impact

Develop a tool that utilises APIs in order to help SMEs  connect with the global business ecosystem. The tools provide real-time data and decision-support for where and when to purchase a) services, b) capabilities, and c) resources. Equally, it will provide a decision-support mechanism as to who, when and where to sell the same. It will maximise SMEs’ competitiveness by allowing them to discover both their strengths and weaknesses. Typically, a firm will consume (import data and functions) and expose APIs (export data and functions).The proposal here focuses on consumed APIs and suggests the following features should enhance the tool capability:

  • APIs connect the tool to micro and macroeconomic data sources, where some are available freely (e.g. WTO, WorldBank, WEF) and others might be available for fees (Bloomberg, Amazon, eBay).
  • Connect the tool to virtual production resources and capabilities, where UK SMEs will be able to rent and use production resources from international providers, charged per use or per time unit.
  • Target mass consumers on social media, and manage marketing accounts over media streams like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This will enable firms to better understand market and customer needs, analyse feedback from customers, and manage promotions.
  • Internet of Things (IoT)-based APIs capture data from physical smart objects in real time to support decision-making capabilities toward realisation of sophisticated cyber-physical systems. The IoTs can be both industrial and consumer. Industrial IoT APIs will help in monitoring and managing production machines in international facilities while consumer IoT APIs will help  improve the products and after-sales services.
  • Check the business partner or supplier background, where companies who would like to trade globally must ensure their details are published on a distributed ledger or third-party trade managing unit, thus, local SMEs will be able to check the partner certifications, quality standards, audit, and any crucial information.
  • Smart micro-contracts based on blockchain technology will be embedded within the tool to allow quick and secure agreements between parties.
  • Evaluate, match jurisdictional policies and regulations and highlight relevant terms that need extra attention. Therefore, SMEs will be aware of how best to resolve disputes in case the contract breached.
  • APIs for IP monitoring and copyright control, based on blockchain to manage and control protected products or services worldwide.


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