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Government unleashed with new API sharing technology

Government content will be able to be simultaneously published on websites, shopfronts, screens and applications using a world-leading technology to be announced today by the federal Department of Finance.

Known as “Government as an API ” it will enable one piece of content to be published across multiple channels and websites — known as omnichannel delivery. The API will let government information be published and automatically updated on non-government sites.

Announcing the “unleashing government” initiative, Finance online services manager Sharyn Clarkson told the Drupalgov conference it would let government distribute its content much more efficiently and widely.

[pullquote] “This will mean we can make content once and publish it many times.” [/pullquote]

“This will mean we can make content once and publish it many times,” Clarkson said. This will include non-government sites.

She used the example of a health agency being able to publish important information about pregnancy to media sites such as baby.com.au. The API would automatically update the information when the content was republished by the public agency.

Clarkson said Australia would be one of the first countries to have an API for its content.

In a later statement the govCMS team said the new system would use Drupal’s content hub technology developed by its service company Acquia. govCMS is a standardised open source web content management system built using Drupal. It is made available through cloud technology as a service and is fully security and accessibility compliant. 

“Until now, sharing content and establishing a ‘single source of truth’ has been hampered by the complexities of ensuring content is updated when re-used by other sites or systems,” the statement said.

 “The service can pull and reuse content from other sites and systems external to govCMS via API. Once in the Content Hub, it normalises all content to enable interoperability between diverse applications, and to adapt to and enforce content models.”

“You can also export digital content and allow it to be reused by third parties or your own systems via API. Your piece of content becomes the single source of truth. If you edit the content, those changes are automatically rolled through to every site and system consuming that piece of content in near real time.”

“The federal government is also soon to release an API for its data, which would also mean it can update data and distribute on any channel instantly. This will radically open up the ability for non government players to use government data.”

Clarkson says Australia will be one of the first countries to have an API for its content.

The API will be initially available to the 51 sites currently using the govCMS system. It uses the Drupal open source platform and enables government to offer a single back end to support the over 1600 websites currently active at the Commonwealth level.

An API is a technology that enables different websites to automatically work together. There has been a recent boom in different types of APIs. For government this offers the opportunity to easily join up services, previously delivered by multiple agencies, and offer them through one website to citizens.

According to the govCMS team expected uses for the API include:

• Omni-channel: Publish approved, trusted content once across many channels, including mobile, web, kiosks, call centre knowledge bases and shop front customer service display screens

• User Focus: Bring together content from experts across multiple agencies and present it to users through a topic based site or entry point for a dramatically improved user experience

• Migration: Systems integrators can move content via API from a wide variety of non-Drupal sites to Content Hub where it can be normalised and then delivered to one or more govCMS sites

• Syndication: Publish approved and trusted government content to other websites via API ensuring the content is always up to date and consistent everywhere. Or publish content to a number of your own sites simultaneously.

• Unleashing Government: Allowing the private or non-profit sectors access to relevant content to reuse or repackage in creative ways.

Clarkson said the uptake of govCMS had well exceeded the business case forecasts, with 51 sites already signed up and 16 in development, after just under a year  This is more than that was predicted for the first three year period.

govCMS is also available to State governments and at least one State is looking to use the software to support their large number of school sites.

Clarkson said two factor authentication had been rolled out recently which had enhanced security. She said a more secure version is to be released to enable the system to house more sensitive personal information.

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.