Australian developers re-architect government-focused CMS

PreviousNext is preparing for the release of version 3 of aGov

Australian web development shop PreviousNext is planning to release a significantly re-architected version of its aGov web platform before the end of the financial year.

aGov is a Drupal distribution designed to make it easier for local, state and federal government organisations to build and maintain websites.

It's also at the heart of the federal government's cloud-based govCMS platform. govCMS, which officially launched earlier this year, announced yesterday that it would fork aGov to create a specific govCMS distribution of Drupal.

PreviousNext co-founder Owen Lansbury described the fork as "a very positive thing from a number of angles."

Lansbury said it demonstrated the growing uptake of the open source Drupal CMS within Australian government at all levels.

"govCMS, because of how Acquia Cloud Site Factory works and govCMS's strict auditing procedures, needs to adhere to a common standard across all sites," said Lansbury.

"Where aGov still has total relevance is when clients need a site that requires one-off customisation, third-party integration, or to be hosted on a range of environments — you've still got full flexibility with aGov to extend its functionality immediately with any of the 10,000+ free Drupal modules or custom code."

Lansbury said that there had been interest in aGov from a number of cloud hosting providers, including GovDC.

GovDC is a product of a NSW government data centre consolidation program, shifting agencies from some 130 data centres to two.

All state government agencies are mandated to migrate to the two GovDC data centres in Silverwater and Unanderra by August 2017.

A managed aGov service will be available on AC3 hardware in the GovDC Marketplace for the NSW government customers.

aGov will also be available on Amazon's public cloud and Microsoft's Azure Marketplace, "providing pre-approved hosting options for government customers requiring a choice of infrastructure vendor," Lansbury said.

"These environments can be self-managed or backed by services from PreviousNext, with independent compliance audits conducted by web accessibility and security experts," he added.

Read more: Good governance and active citizenship require open data

"Our experience with our government customers is that they rarely stick with a default installation of aGov, and there's always a huge range of individual requirements that demand total flexibility at the content, application and infrastructure level," said Lansbury.

"We've ensured aGov and the various cloud hosting options will accommodate this flexibility as future releases become available."

There are more than 500 sites running the aGov distribution of Drupal, Lansbury said. aGov has been downloaded around 25,000 times since it launched.

The distribution was released in 2013 after a beta period involving a number of government agencies.

It is used by organisations such as Service NSW, the New South Wales' 'one stop shop' for government services.

Lansbury said that PreviousNext has been closely following the work of the Digital Transformation Office set up by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

One of the initial public outcomes of the DTO's establishment has been the release of the alpha version of a Digital Service Standard for government agencies.

That work by the DTO has helped inform work on the aGov roadmap.

govCMS is currently based on version 2 of aGov, and PreviousNext is preparing to release version 3 within the next couple of months.

"That'll [include] a significant re-architecting of theming and the front-end design of aGov, really tying in with the new government service standard approach to look-and-feel and user experience driven by the Digital Transformation Office," Lansbury said.

"Then of course with Drupal 8 coming out hopefully towards the middle or end of the year, we'll be actively pushing to get aGov on Drupal 8 released as close as possible to [its] release," he added.

Drupal 8 is a major rewrite of much of the CMS, with major changes for developers, site builders and content authors.

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