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Government turn to Open Source CMS to “drastically” cut costs

by Sam Murphy •
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The Government’s adoption of a Whole-of-Government (WofG) CMS (which it has christened GovCMS) seeks to cut web development and management costs and consolidate 1,200 Federal websites.  Over the last 10 years, according to Intermedium’s analysis, the Federal Government has spent approximately $81 million on Content Management Systems (CMS), a relatively modest figure in comparison to other business software investments. This spend is across various agencies and just $1.2 million has been contracted for CMS related activities in 2013-14 (year to date).

The Draft Statement of Requirements for GovCMS which was released in May 2014, notes “coordinating multiple government agencies to use a common and scalable cloud based technology platform to host websites seeks to reduce the total cost to the Commonwealth of maintaining the web presence”.

A whole-of-Government CMS is yet to be deployed in any other jurisdiction in Australia but New Zealand has recently deployed one, reporting savings of $50,000 per web project.

Australian Chief Technology Officer (CTO), John Sheridan, has announced following a review that the Government will use open source Drupal for GovCMS.

In an interview with FutureGov, Sheridan stated that Drupal won out over 17 other CMS systems as it ranked the highest in NSW’s review, published online. According to the review, Drupal “is the clear winner when it comes to community support. Arguably its strong modularity makes up for its lack of core functionality”.

Minister for Communication Malcolm Turnbull has strongly advocated the use of open source software in a guest article for The Guardian. In it he writes, “open source software has triumphed around the world – it drastically cuts down development costs and makes it easier to share lessons learnt in making platforms more efficient.”

“Turnbull is also advocating the reuse of platforms that deliver common functions…and in so doing puts his support behind the 'reuse' ICT sentiment”, commented Intermedium’s Principle Analyst Judy Hurditch in her opinion piece: Opinion: Clear and unambiguous - Turnbull’s five main points on government use of ICT

Sheridan says that GovCMS will allow agencies to share code, modules and applications which in turn will lead to long-term savings.

He also noted that GovCMS will not be mandatory. He said “this will be a choice that [agencies] will have, we’re not mandating the use of Drupal,” although “a lot of them do want to take advantage of this arrangement so we’re making it possible for them to do so.”

Victoria was the first jurisdiction to attempt to deploy a whole-of-Government CMS - in 2004.  However, it was abandoned after no CMS was found to match the State’s business requirements. In the decade since, the technology landscape has changed to a significant degree, making a move to a WofG CMS platform much more achievable.

New Zealand implemented a Government-wide CMS in 2013.  Its Common Web Services Platform (CWSP) uses a SilverStripe Content Management System (CMS) hosted by local company Revera, through infrastructure-as-a-service.  It is standardised for a number of key agencies.

The project was introduced in the NZ Government’s ICT Strategy and Action Plan to 2017 with one of the actions identified as “Deliver a cloud enterprise content management ‘as-a-Service’ solution”.

In September 2013 when it went live, Internal Affairs Minister Chris Tremain said “in terms of procurement there are potential savings of $50,000 per web project. On its own it’s not a big amount but when spread over the whole of government we’re looking at estimated savings of over $1 million dollars a year.”

A number of agencies have successfully transitioned onto CWSP. A Government blogpost written in February 2014, details the successful transition of two agencies onto it. The first, the Ministry of Primary Industries has migrated six main websites into one.

Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology also migrated onto the CWSP. Kerry Sunderland, the website and e-marketing coordinator said “critically, scalable responsive design was embedded within the new CMS, which enabled us to deploy a responsive website very quickly and easily.”

The Australian Government’s CMS is being designed in-line with an objective of the Coalition’s Policy for eGovernment and the Digital Economy to “simplify Government ICT and eliminate duplicated, fragmented and sub-scale activities across agencies by requiring use of shared or cloud services where minimum efficient scale hurdles are not met.”

Like New Zealand, one of the goals in delivering a Government-wide CMS is to lower the overall spend on CMS across the jurisdiction.

Australia will pursue a cloud-based CMS in order to reduce upfront investment. GovCMS is due to go live in September 2014, however, Sheridan indicates the Government will begin by hosting two simple websites before expanding to larger agencies’ more complex sites.


Related Articles:

Finance to approach market for new CMS

Opinion: Clear and unambiguous - Turnbull’s five main points on government use of ICT


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