For more than 100 years, the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia has been governing federal, state and local agencies across all areas of government.
In 2015, John Sheridan, Sharyn Clarkson and their team in the Australian Department of Finance moved their department's site from a legacy environment to Drupal and the cloud. By moving away from a proprietary solution, people in the Department of Finance aimed to decrease costs and increase their agility as they better engage citizens with government services. The Department of Finance has us to build the open cloud platform for the development and continuous delivery of its Drupal-based govCMS service.
Moving an entire government to a new digital platform is no easy feat, and many government agencies have struggled to support the needs of their citizens online. This challenge, coupled with increasing budget pressures, requires federal and state agencies to change the way they deliver information and services.
For the Government of Australia, this meant abandoning a legacy solution and adopting an open source platform where a shared infrastructure, code and templates allow for governance and innovation to coexist.
After moving to Acquia and Drupal, the Department of Finance quickly recognized the advantages of the innovation and collaboration model that is inherent to open source.
“An added benefit is that because the platform itself is open source, we don’t have issues associated with licensing requests,” Sheridan said. The collaborative nature inherent to open source allowed collaboration between agencies that was difficult to achieve with a proprietary solution. For example, the govCMS distribution allows each government agency to repurpose modules from the distributions. This means that agencies save time, money and resources because they do not have to start from scratch.
For example, Ben Galdys, digital and creative services manager at the Department of Communication and the Arts, says the open source platform has allowed the agency to create its own “Have Your Say” module for interested parties to submit comments on legislation, releases and other events. However, the real benefit, he says, is the universal nature of govCMS means the module can be used across any agency that requires it.
“We’re a small agency, only a few hundred staff, and yet other agencies are coming to us and asking us questions about how we did this, can they use it,” said Akhil Bhandari, senior adviser of digital implementation at communications. “So it’s been good to collaborate with other agencies and give back.”
The “Have Your Say” module can be adapted to any type of need an agency requires, says Bhandari, whether that means a poll, text submission or other needs for citizens to engage in formal consultant processes. This flexibility brings a new level of innovation to the type of collaboration now available between departments without the need for cumbersome processes or costly procedures.
“Agencies are used to the traditional way of doing things ... it’s been good to help them do more, whether it’s a quick poll, or a discussion, the ability to have conversations online, versus the traditional release of a paper,” Bhandari said.
Although governments have always been keen to innovate with technology, govCMS has brought a new level of cost savings, collaboration and development to the public space, Sheridan said. The more agencies that adopt the platform, the more powerful it will become.
“What govCMS allows is faster delivery of services, more flexibility. More effective use of public money. This platform has made these things easier,” he said.
- Live Website: 163
- Websites in development: 28
- Agencies using govCMS: 61
- Collaboration across federal and state agencies has led to developments like the “Have your Say” module or open data CKAN repository.