Jeff starts by saying that ‘Government needs saving’ - at least in the US. There isn’t good availability of online tools for citizens. There isn’t enough transparency and information sharing. There’s a poor success rate for government IT projects - in terms of time and money spent. There’s a strong proprietary software culture, leading to vendor lock in, convulted procurement processes, a poor record of re-use.
There are 5 key ways that open source can help government:
- Freedom - from lockin and monopoly by proprietary vendors. Less time and expense on contracting and vendor management.
- Innovation - community driven development working for government.
- Speed - rapid site creation and release. Easy prototyping.
- Reusability - shared functionality. Build once and reuse.
- Cost - lower costs, no licensing costs (but it’s not free).
Some typical government client needs are:
- Replace legacy non-CMS websites
- Micro-sites for organisational heirarchies
- Site platforms - rapidly repeatable site structures
- Government convened online communities
- Citizens input / crowdsourcing - voting, rating, collaborative editing
The modern open government stack fits Drupal very well - the need for open data, data visualisation and social media tools. This is more than a standard CMS.
When the Obama administration came to power, the open government directive in the US stated that within 120 days all agencies must have a page at /open stating their open initiatives. They also had to release at least 3 critical data sets, provide mechanisms for public feedback and input.
In terms of adoption of Drupal in the US government, all 3 branches of government and the Dept of Defense now have Drupal sites.
The bulk of the White House website was built in 3 months. The White House chose Drupal because:
- Championed from within
- Robust core and contrib functionality
- Allowed full control of platform
- The community is open and transparent, and the White House wanted to participate in that.
- Ability to easily integrate new tech
Jeff says that government clients need efficiency, standardisation, scalability and extensibility.
Phase2 created a platform for the US House of Representatives, to power the sites for all the senators and congressmen. They didn’t build websites, they built a distribution with a base theme, a modular theme structure, packaged sub themes, common features, standard views/taxonomy, and ‘cookbook’ documentation. There was enough standardisation to make development and security easy - but enough room for individuality to avoid each site seeming to be ‘cookie-cutter’. Over a hundred sites were deployed in 2 weeks.
Jeff’s firm has developed OpenPublic - a Drupal distribution - to serve the public sector market. They are working hard to get the same level of community involvement that Drupal itself does. One aspect of that is having an Opengov ‘App store’ allowing site features to be packaged into easy to install apps - that will allow community innovation while being easy for users to add to their site.
He says that there is a clear movement to open source in the public sector, and gives another example of CivicCommons.