Open source Drupal and government in the UK - 2014
by Jeffrey McGuire
Impressions and Acquia's presentation from the 2014 Government ICT 2.0 conference in London.
Practically a road show ...
Open source Drupal is doing well in public service. It is empowering government agencies, NGOs, and educational institutions to make a positive difference in the world. Riding this wave, I am thrilled to have the chance to speak at four (sort of 5) government-related conferences in 2014: The Australian Government CTO, John Sheridan, and I were the keynote speakers at DrupalGov in Canberra; I gave an Acquia presentation at the Government ICT 2.0 conference in London; and I will be speaking to UK government audiences in Belfast and Birmingham in October and December 2014, respectively. The 5th sort-of government event that I am really excited about is actually php[world] in Washington, D.C. this November … not a government event per se, but anything that goes on inside the Beltway (the ring road that surrounds the United States’ capital city) is always something of a government show. I’ll share my impressions from all these places and conferences as I go.
Trends in citizen services, 2014
The government delegates I spoke with at the conference were extremely keen to learn how to capitalize on the ongoing trend towards “channel shift” – using the mobile Web and other digital technologies to serve their constituents better, faster, anywhere, and at any time – while using public money more efficiently and effectively. There was a significant presence of open-source-based solutions and service providers in the exhibitors’ area, including several Drupal implementation companies.
Beyond channel shift, another area that everyone seemed to have on their radar was Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s concept of “nudge” in UX and system design to help citizens help themselves: “... any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid. Nudges are not mandates. Putting fruit at eye level counts as a nudge. Banning junk food does not.”
All in all, I was impressed with the sincere and successful digital transformation efforts going on in UK government bodies and am excited to see how some of the more nascent efforts will pan out in the coming months and years.
In our joint presentation, I gave an overview of the definition of what open source software is, what Drupal is above and beyond that, and how open source Drupal enables four factors that I consider crucial for successful digital government: transparency, collaboration, participation, and innovation. I also compared these four factors to similar factors for successful digital business (they are also important, but governments have different priorities). Another key point – among many other benefits – is that the difference between IT projects based on open source or proprietary software is not only the freeing of resources through zero-dollar licenses, but also the ability to build and deliver ideal solutions faster through the freedom to collaborate with huge communities of practitioners.
Matter CIO Hugo Pickford-Wardle spoke about government priorities and digital transformation today, and specifically about implementing them in Drupal for the Westminster City Council. One of the examples he cited is classic “nudge”: A simple confirmation message (”We have received your planning application. Processing can take up to 30 days. We will contact you when next steps are required.”) can reduce calls to City Hall by an incredible amount – 30% or more – thereby freeing up money and resources to provide better services.
Acquians Christopher Roye and Dave Gully spoke about how Acquia fits into this picture, removing complexity in digital lifecycle management and ensuring success for government--and other clients, including the University of Surrey--with its range of products and services.
I rounded out the day explaining how I do not want my government building citizen services on software infrastructure it does not control, and how open source Drupal puts them firmly in control while offering exceptional flexibility and cost-efficiency.
I caught the action on video – not high production value, but a great presentation in many places, I thought.
Here are the session slides to help follow along with the video.