Drupal drives Govt 2.0

from IDM Magazine July-August 2009

A new Web site for Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd joins a wave of Government 2.0 initiatives to launch on the open source Drupal platform.

The site at pm.gov.au provides the prime minister with a platform to blog and Twitter his thoughts as well as consult with Australian voters via a Community Cabinet. It joins other high profile recent Drupal initiatives from the NSW Government, Department of Defence and Foreign Affairs and Trade.

OPC IT in Canberra reportedly developed the pm.gov.au site in conjunction with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet's Webservices Team.

The PM is following a global trend towards Drupal for high profile government Web sites such as the Obama administration's Drupal site, http://www.recovery.gov/, and the French Government's http://www.gouvernement .fr/

The New Zealand government is using Drupal at http://beehive.govt.nz. The site features information about all their ministers, their speeches, press releases, ministerial briefings, and major government initiatives.

Sydney-based Web developer PreviousNext has just completed a major new Drupal site for the NSW Government to promote $A62B it is spending on infrastructure projects as part of the 2009 state budget.

The portal site at NSW.gov.au features extensive Google Map integration and was put together in a tight two-week timeline

PreviousNext founder and partner Owen Lansbury said the current site is phase one of a two phase project that will eventually migrate a host of NSW Government ASP Content to Drupal.

"We went through a strong evaluation phase a few years ago to choose Drupal as the best platform to host rich content and publishing. You are now seeing a shift from a few years ago when people payed hundreds of thousands of dollars for a proprietary CMS and Drupal has eaten that market.

"Drupal has a flexible architecture and provides the ability to easily customise processes. It is a very attractive proposition when you want to jet a project to the market very quickly," said Lansbury.

"Most organisations have the teams in-house to handle ongoing management of a Drupal site, all they need is some PHP, HTML and CSS skills which is good enough for 80-90% of what they need. They can call on us for more complex tasks such as custom module development."

Justin Freeman of ACT developer Agileware has recently developed Drupal Web sites for the Department of Defence and other government agencies.

Freeman emphasises the benefit of open source software in reducing development costs, increasing quality and providing more features.

"When using open source software, you stand on the shoulders of giants. Able to leverage a massive community for your requirements."

Agileware worked with a Directorate within Navy to develop a Task Risk Management System that incorporated both the risk management requirements as well as work planning and reporting features.

The Web-based Drupal system has replaced traditional desktop applications, email and document management systems that promote information silos and capture information completely out of context.

However, Freeman said were many challenges with implementing an open source system within an IT environment that is very closed, outsourced and Microsoft-centric.

Another Government 2.0 initiative from Agilware is a Web site for the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), a statuatory authority that functions as part of Australia's international aid program.

ACIAR wanted an on-line workspace to seek synergies, capture knowledge and provide useful reference material to assist in maximising the outcomes from the research for projects in North Vietnam and the Philippines.

Agileware are active contributors and supporters of the Drupal project and community.

"We believe in giving back as much as we take, that way the project and community benefits," said Freeman

Tom Erickson, the CEO of Acquia, a specialist Drupal support company, believes the open source CMS is taking government by storm because of its flexibility.

"Drupal has core capabilities and, in addition to that, it has a number of modules. So, for example, if you want to create a module that sends out a Twitter message that says there's some new information available or this is how this particular set of funds is being used, that can automatically be built into the Web site."