Text size: A A A

Open source revolution: federal government platform launched

Featured Video Play Icon

The federal government has rolled out the first website using its new $24 million open-source content management platform, launching the govCMS beta site this week.

“This site will evolve leading up to the release of a full production site to be launched with the official opening of govCMS in February 2015,” the federal government’s chief technology officer John Sheridan explained in a blog post. The site is the first of what Sheridan hopes will be many government domains which use the Drupal publishing and development software.

The australia.gov.au site, a general portal servicing three tiers of government visited by 2 million visitors monthly, “is one example of a website that has already migrated to the govCMS hosting environment”, according to Sheridan.

The United States-based service company associated with the founder of Drupal, Acquia, recently won the four-year contract. Acquia will provide a special government version of Drupal, called govCMS, from an Amazon cloud facility in Australia. Sheridan today confirmed Acquia had won the tender at a cost of $24 million over the four years.

Sheridan told a Sydney press briefing the govCMS platform will only be used for the presentation of public information. Sensitive classified information and personal data will continue to be delivered from proprietary systems.

Sheridan says the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority has also agreed to be an early adopter of the platform. The govCMS is directed at the many smaller agencies which don’t have the budget or capability to maintain websites, he says.

Sheridan says the government wanted a non-proprietary system which enables agencies to develop sites quickly and share special developments with other agencies easily.

Agencies will pay a fee to use the platform. Sheridan estimates moving the australia.gov.au site to the govCMS platform will save around 50% of the current spend.

The cost of developing government websites is difficult to assess, but a United Kingdom study suggests the average overall cost is around $2-3 million. Sheridan declined to say how much ASADA is paying for access to the platform.

John Sheridan’s presentation from the govCMS launch

Acquia say it is working with the govCMS team to create common themes and templates that may be used by a variety of government gepartments, agencies, official blogs and policy microsites. Together they’re also developing a range of procurement options and pricing plans to provide greater value and flexibility to agencies that adopt govCMS.

Sheridan says the feedback from users is they are not looking for flash design. “Users are not looking for entertainment with government websites. They want to get their information and get out,” he said.

Acquia spokesperson David Churbuck says the pressure on the CMS in the IT stack has never been greater — websites now need to become fully responsive to any device. “The new front office is the glass,” he said.

More at The Mandarin: Tom Burton: can open source cure Canberra’s Kremlin web?

CORRECTION: The original version of this story stated australia.gov.au achieved 2 million visitors annually. The actual number is 2 million monthly.

Author Bio

Tom Burton

Tom Burton is publisher of The Mandarin based in Melbourne. He has served in various public administration roles, specialising in the media and communications sector. He was a Walkley Award-winning journalist and executive editor of The Sydney Morning Herald. He worked as Canberra bureau chief for the Australian Financial Review and as managing editor of smh.com.au. He most recently worked at the Australian Communications and Media Authority.