The federal government has moved one step closer to eliminating expensive and cumbersome legacy of disparity between its essential computing systems.
The Department of Finance has tapped Acquia Inc. to help build out a new single whole of government online content management system – called govCMS – a move that could ultimately harmonise and unite the present costly mishmash of often conflicting online systems.
According to Finance, the new “govCMS will be broadly available to Commonwealth Government entities from February 2015.”
The announcement of Acuia is the first major step in Finance’s efforts to create tangible order over the so-called whole-of-government online estate as agencies across the nation scramble to meet the deadline set by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull to have all “major services and interactions with individuals online” by 2017.
And although the selection of an individual vendor is important, in reality is just one step towards the core underlying commitment to use open standards for the government’s development of its online assets, especially public facing websites.
If successful, it is plausible the Commonwealth’s govCMS standard could be taken up by state and local governments given that Mr Turnbull this month conspicuously committed to extending the functionality of the “myGov” transactional hub to other jurisdictions for free.
The proliferation of incompatibilities and legacy systems in government has proved a big inhibitor to agencies of all flavours harnessing the kind of productivity increases the private sector has achieved through digitisation.
John Sheridan, the Australian Government’s Chief Technology Officer and Procurement Coordinator said Acquia will now provide “Software-as-a-Service on the Public Cloud using Drupal open source software.”
He added that Acquia will also partner “with several local businesses so that govCMS can offer a comprehensive service from website design and development through to support and managed operations.”
“I’m excited that, through govCMS, we’ll be offering a cost effective content management and website hosting solution to Commonwealth entities,” Mr Sheridan said.
“govCMS will provide entities with the opportunity to create and manage websites, based on best practice and compliant with Australian Government standards, including security and accessibility.
“Removing the burden for entities of having to own and manage software or infrastructure should allow them to focus more on their core business.”
Aside from reducing the cost and the infrastructure burden, the commitment to online accessibility standards – primarily for people with disabilities or who need to use screen readers is a big win for advocates like Media Access Australia who have long been fighting for equity online in the digital age through the adoption of open standards.
“It’s great to see government using an open standards CMS,” said Media Access deputy chief executive Natalie Collins.
“This should allow them to focus on the content rather than the infrastructure. [It] provides the basis for government departments to create accessible content.
Management at Acquia is predictably ecstatic at the company’s selection by Finance.
“Drupal is rapidly becoming the gold standard among governments around the world. We’re proud to see the Australian Government taking a progressive approach to delivering citizen-centric digital experiences,” said Chris Harrop, Acquia’s director for Asia Pacific and Japan.
“Acquia helps organisations as vast as the Australian government deliver services at a far lower cost and achieve a faster time to market with our resilient cloud platform.”