Government pushes beyond the walls of its websites

08 Feb 2016

A move by the Federal Government to use Open Source software to publish websites is being followed up with plans to now distribute government information to wherever it is relevant to consumers.

More than 180 attendees at a conference in Canberra today heard The Department of Finance’s Assistant Secretary, Ms Sharyn Clarkson, explain that her agency is creating an Application Programming Interface (API) to make government information available beyond the walls of government websites.

“Let’s consider, for example, pregnancy. How does Government best get information to women at a key times about support that it offers. When a woman finds out she is pregnant, she is much more likely to go to
Essential Baby or baby.com

“We are proposing to take Government information and allow it to be delivered to where people are rather than having them come to us all the time.”

The conference was keynoted by the publisher of the government focused media website
The Mandarin, Mr Tom Burton, who foretold of a future world where Government may simply be the provider of data with the private sector much more involved in delivering services

“Government could become a data play,” he said. “For example, the Government collects the weather and let’s other people play with the information and deliver services related to it.”

The annual conference, DrupalGov, now in its third year, has been boosted by the Federal Government’s adoption of Drupal as the open source software used to now publish more than 51 government agency websites under the banner govCMS.

Ms Clarkson said the Government’s decision to adopt Drupal followed a review that found more than 360 different content management systems and versions were in use across some 1600 websites.

“Government works at a scale most private sectors will not encounter unless they work on an Olympic Games,” she told the conference. “When government adopts something it makes it mainstream. The fact government has adopted open source says: “ This thing is mature. This thing is enterprise. This thing is robust.”

Drupal is used to publish thousands of websites globally, including for NBC, Warner Brothers, Flight Centre and even The Whitehouse.

John O’Neill, the Managing Director of Komosion, one of the sponsors of the conference, said his organisation had decided to “disrupt ourselves”, replacing a proprietary content management system it owns and operates with a new system built on drupal.

“There are 30,000 participants in the global Drupal community and some 10,000 modules,” he said. “We can give our private and public sector clients much more value by leveraging this effort and contributing to the open source community.”

Mr Burton said he believed Australia ranked about number 15 in the world in terms of the Government’s use of digital technologies to deliver better outcomes for citizens – the five leading nations were the United Kingdom, Israel, New Zealand, South Korea and Estonia.

“In Australia, we’re digitalising point solutions at the moment,” he said, explaining this meant putting information onto websites and making them easier to navigate and discover.

However, the future could see Government become a “data play” – “Government as a Platform”.

“In this world, Government could become a “data layer and doesn't need to be in service delivery - others can do it better,” Mr Burton said.