#DPSX Jan 2016 meet up – Drupal Distribution for local government

Our January meet up was in the making since the #DPSX BoF at DrupalCon Barcelona in September 2015, the sign up for the 13th Jan event was great but logistical challenges mid December left quite a few folks confused. In retrospect the meet up needs a permanent abode, if you’d like to host the next meet up please get in touch.

Despite that the turn out was good, we had 11 from a possible 29 and one late arrival found the venue doors locked! apologies Chris, have expressed much annoyance with the venue management. Continue reading

DPSX – lessons from Australia for a local government distribution in the UK

Drupal Public Sector

As a tax payer I want companies who provide frontline public services to make the data they gather in the provision of such services available through Open APIs to other actors in the ecosystem, so that such actors can utilise that data to provide new and innovative services to the public.

News from Australia shared with the DPSX BoF at DrupalCon Barcelona back in September was both good and bad, whilst the Australian government is spearheading adoption with the GovCMS distribution, efforts are we were told loosing steam as the distribution in its current form is quite restrictive requiring significant customisation by individual departments adopting it. The question is why fork it? why not modularise it? To get some answers that may help us in the UK I reached out to my Acquia colleagues in Australia to shed some light on the matter and this is what they had to say:

govCMS is growing and maturing at a good rate after a slow start. The fundamentals have been adjusted to allow for greater openness and govCMS_logo (3)_1 community interaction with the distro via github. The Australian Government is delivering on their aim to work with the community. We are expecting to see further iterations of the govCMS product over the next 12 months that will improve the ‘out of the box’ experience and allow clients to get sites up and running quickly/cheaply. Expect to see improvements that either reduce the need for customisation and make custom work easier.

The restrictions you mention are by design – they largely relate to the modules available to developers. By providing best of breed modules, the distro can avoid bloat/cost. The other effect is to focus expertise on those modules so they become easier to implement via experience and documentation that are relevant to this client space. That said, the process of requesting changes has also moved to github in the last few months and is less a ‘black box’ than it was initially.

As to why govCMS was forked – this largely related to the need Australian Government had to work with a stable platform where they could apply their own governance controls. This will probably mean a distro that evolves at a slow and steady pace, with a focus on security and compatibility. Australian Government is also sensitive to appearance that they are endorsing one vendor over another, or becoming subject to vendor lock in, taking ownership of the distro removes this issue and makes further broad investment by a range of departments more likely.” Gavin Tapp | Program Director | Acquia

There are valuable lessons for local councils in the UK seeking to create a local government distribution, which ought to make for engaging conversations at the 13th January 2016 meetup of the DPSX in London. If you’d like to a part of the conversations please register for the free event here:

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DPSX @ DrupalCon Barcelona

As a digital activist I want a forum that brings together individuals from private, public and the third sectors, to share ideas, address issues of waste, service improvements, development and innovation in the delivery of front line public services so that we can collectively work towards the betterment of public services.

Between the day job, give back and the fam little time remains for anything else, none other the DPSX initiative (now in its 4th year) has suffered because of it. After an epic turnout at Prague, completely forgetting to schedule it’s BoF in Amsterdam, I got in early on making it happen at DrupalCon Barcelona and it paid off, perhaps a gap year had built up an appetite for it.

DPSX-BoF-Dcon-Barcelona-02 Anyhow the attendance was epic; we had four continents represented and discussions focused on issues faced by industry and the public sector in sourcing, adoption and innovation of open source content management systems. A huge thank you to the attendees:  Alex BlandfordChris SkeneKristoffer SoderlundJohasn Du BoisChris Hartigan,  Andrew HoppinSuchi GargHolger KreisTom Dean.

The news from Australia was both good and bad, whilst the Australian government is spearheading adoption with the GovCMS distribution, efforts are we were told loosing steam as the distribution in its current form is quite restrictive requiring significant customisation by individual departments adopting it. The question is why fork it? why not modularise it? having said that I am too far removed from the ground to comment on it, as such have reached out to my colleagues and the community in Australia to shed some light on the matter and shall keep update this post as and when I hear back from down under.

The news from home (UK) was a mixed bag too, whilst G-cloud is working for central government the word is it isn’t working so well for the local government (councils) and is being exploited by big corps for labour arbitrage. There were names mentioned (the usual suspects), large central gov contractors who outsource their wins to the smaller co’s in the eco-system which goes against premise for G-cloud to be set up in the first place.

Though there is truth in the big corps abusing G-cloud via labour arbitrage the SMEs have to share some of the blame too, there is a dearth of experienced Drupal resources and should the SMEs choose to they can set their own terms and put a dent in the exploitation we were so passionately informed of. Yes yes I hear you, they are not exactly a digital OPEC but then they are not powerless either.

The message here has to be ‘do more for all concerned’; GDS should do more to ensure local government (councils) have the train, skill sets and tools necessary to make the most of G-Cloud. Local government ought to conduct regular retrospectives on their success and failures using G-cloud or other means of sourcing and course correct their approach so that they can up-skill their procurement departments, cut unnecessary red tape and do more to encourage bidding and procurement from local SMEs.

As for curbing the big corps abusing their position and exploiting SMEs, GDS could improve monitoring down stream resourcing to ensure its not a marked up pass-through.

As for the challenges of contribs back to the community, central governments ought to make it mandatory for government departments to contribute back to the community (with exceptions for good reasons of course). To this end one single legislative change can transform the ecosystem from the ground up. A law for corps who provide frontline Public services, who as a service provider must make the data available for free (or a capped transaction fee) via standardised APIs to all actors in the ecosystem following the Open API principles. However it is clear that corporate service providers will need to be pushed towards Open Data principles and in making our data more widely available to prospective service providers to encourage innovation in the ecosystem.

As a tax payer I want companies who provide frontline public services to make the data they gather in the provision of such services available through Open APIs to other actors in the ecosystem, so that such actors can utilise that data to provide new and innovative services to the public. Last but not the least and a regular topic of discussion at DPSX meetups is cross border service development and waste, as expected it was raised at the DCon Barca BoF too. The issues remain the same as they did a few years ago, as do the candidates options to addressing the challenges, some of them have been touched upon above, other’s I think we’ll keep for future meetups, which brings me to my new year’s resolution! more and regular DPSX meetups and that is going to be possible since a few folks from the community have agreed to get involved and share the load as and when need be, for that I’d like to thank Farez Rahman and Mark Taylor, thank you gentlemen.

DPSX-Register-now-EventBrite-2015 So the next meet up is scheduled for 13th January 2016 at Google Campus in London from 18:00 to 19:30, we don’t have any speakers as yet but that will change closer to the time, shall be reaching out to them lovely folks at GDS and DHUK and shall keep you posted of their likely attendance. In the mean time if Drupal and OS in the Public Sector is of interest to you please sign up for the meetup here and see you in the new year!

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