205: Government as a Service - architecting govCMS in Australia

All about govCMS - An interview with and presentation by Adam Malone--Acquia Solutions Architect, based in Canberra, Australia. In the podcast interview, we start off learning about Adam's background and history in Drupal. We touch on how Drupal has gone from being very specifically a content management system in the Drupal 6 days, to the power and flexibility of Drupal 7, to being a powerful framework, still with a great user interface, in Drupal 8. Make sure you check out the presentation video (embedded in this post below and here on YouTube), in which Adam goes into detail about building and maintaining the govCMS platform and project.

Drupal & govCMS in Australia

"govCMS is a whole of government rethink about online, agile, accessibility, procurement, security, support, and open source. - Not just code."

Adam explains the motivation behind building govCMS: "The entire Federal Government of Australia has said 'We want to revolutionize how we operate online. We want to take our digital strategy to something very modern, taking hints from what the US government has done with the Whitehouse [and more!], with what the UK government has done with gov.uk. We want to take those ideas and we want to leapfrog them. We want to make this platform that's available for the entire government. If anyone wants to get online and they want to have best practices and they want to have modern code and security and a string base to build on, then we'll make that available.'" This system is called govCMS and the choice fell to Drupal to build this platform and systems. "This has expanded Drupal immeasurably here [in Australia]. Its been exciting to be a part of that."

All carrot, no stick - What is govCMS?

The Australian Government offers its department and units a real set of advantages with govCMS. The result, as Adam points out, is "a huge shift in the thinking about how we put a site online, which has in turn, shifted departments' digital strategy and how they think about marketing themselves to the citizens and residents of the country. The system includes:

  • Drupal distribution (a preconfigured set of Drupal functionality) based on best practices and that offers guaranteed compliance with Australian government standards (security, accessibility, etc.)
  • Security compliance out of the box through secure, scalable infrastructure through the Acquia Platform and Amazon Web Services - "We're open sourcing the ability to go onto a secure environment."
  • support offering for government departments using govCMS
  • competitive cost point thanks to economies of scale, open source license costs (zero dollars per license), and pre-configuration of the govCMS system.
  • accelerated delivery and simplified governance for the whole package through the elimination of lengthy procurement and tendering processes--or rather the pre-selection of the system by the Finance Department. "It's faster to go from the idea [of needing a new site] to going live. We've seen sites go from start to going live in six weeks."
    • Compare this to the normal (in Australia and elsewhere) government process, in which procurement has to last a minimum of three months (!) and in which departments need to tender (possibly separately) for a website, infrastructure, development, design, security assessments and more. govCMS has covered all of that in a single package offering.
  • Improved return on investment not only in technological efficiencies, but also in the fact that developers, content authors, and user users can move from department to department and hit the ground running because they are working on the same platform--one that they are familiar with and enjoy using.
  • And it's open source! - "By making the code freely available to everyone, putting it on GitHub and Drupal.org, we're hoping that anyone interested in Drupal or who has heard of govCMS can take it them selves, hack on it, code against it, improve it, and feed those [improvements] back into our development workflow."

"By making this defined platform which has these configuration options, and that's fine-tuned for government, and that's been battle-tested for government, we're hoping to make that an experience that will be replicable across the entire spectrum of different departments, but also across the world should other people want to copy our idea. We think that would be great. It's the true idea of open source--to open source the code, but also open source the idea, the governance and everything that goes together to make govCMS--and wherever else it goes--successful."

govCMS Resources

Some govCMS sites (more on Drupal.org govCMS project page)

Presentation video - 44 min.

Presentation description and slides

govCMS: Government as a Service - Adam Malone, Acquia Solutions Architect APJ

The Australian Federal Government has taken the revolutionary step of standardizing on Drupal in public cloud. govCMS is a 'Whole of Government' solution that any federal or state level agency can join, leveraging the infrastructure, knowledge and experience of the collective government.

By pioneering this solution, the Australian Government are putting a stake in the ground and challenging the traditional private, proprietary, closed source approaches taken in the past. This opens up new possibilities for governments around the World in their search for an ideal platform to interact with their citizens.

In Adam's session, he covers the process of taking govCMS from an idea to a platform capable of delivering the government as a service. Topics include:

  • Lessons learned along the way
  • How broad solutions can be engineered
  • The decisions needed to keep govCMS from bloating
  • The benefits this entire project brings to the Drupal community, to Australia, and to governments globally
  • How you can contribute

Guest dossier

Interview video - 28 min.