5 February 2019
Salsa Digital

What is open government?

Open government focuses on promoting transparency, citizen participation/collaboration and accountability to produce better governments.  Four key pillars that allow an open government to lower the barrier to delivering great digital services are open source technologies such as open CMS, open data, open platform and open design.

Open government

The Australian Federal Government’s Open Government National Action Plan covers 15 commitments, with four of these related to how government can become more open through technological innovation, specifically open data and the use of central portals and whole-of-government digital platforms. See the Open Government Partnership Australia website for more information.

Delivering on open government

As a key digital enabler, we’re passionate about how we can contribute to the open government movement by providing better solutions for government that benefit citizens on two levels:

  1. As users/citizens — delivering a better and more consistent user experience.

  2. As taxpayers — open source, open source CMSs, open data, open platforms and open design can significantly reduce costs and streamline processes.

By lowering the tech barriers Salsa delivers benefits to government — our public servants can focus on delivering great digital services and digital content for citizens.

Open everything (Open X)

Salsa’s business model is not about intellectual property (IP), rather we’re focused on delivering projects with the whole stack open source. Our strategy is open everything, OpenX. Our ethos is built on what we see as the four technology pillars for open government — open source CMS (open CMS), open data, open platform and open design.

Four pillars GovCMS

Delivering benefits

Open ‘everything’ delivers many benefits to government and citizens. Open government, open source content management systems (CMS), open data, open platforms and open design all come together to deliver better services to the citizen. They also lower the barrier for public servants because the public sector can focus on delivering great digital content and services, with common problems and tech 'stuff' (around platform, CMS and other technological issues), removed.

Open everything removes technology as the barrier and turns it into the enabler.

What is open source and open CMS

Open source software technologies such as open source content management systems (CMSs) (e.g. GovCMS, Drupal and Wordpress) and open source hosting platforms (Kubernetes, OpenShift and Lagoon) create an even playing field across the globe for software development and innovation. Whereas proprietary/licensed software development and innovation is most often located outside Australia (e.g. Silicon Valley or low-cost offshore regions) open source technology can be enhanced and developed by members of the particular open source community, anywhere in the world.

Governments around the world are keen to reap the many rewards of open source and open source CMSs, such as:

  • Reduced costs

  • Global and active communities, global and active adoption

  • Minimising vendor lock-in and the unfortunately too common ‘$ proprietary liability’

  • Reduced risks (code has already been tested and used)

  • Collaboration and knowledge sharing

GovCMS, a whole-of-government CMS, is a great example of putting policy into action. Find out more about GovCMS on our What is GovCMS? page.

Salsa’s 15-year legacy is in open source CMS technologies, delivering enterprise-grade solutions built on GovCMS, Drupal and Wordpress.

What is open data?

Open data makes data available to the public (and businesses) to use and reuse as they wish. In this way, society can benefit from high-value datasets. It is one of the key elements of the open government movement. In fact, government policy around data is ‘open by default’.

Salsa is actively involved in the open data movement and closely follows government policy and practice. We’ve completed several government projects working with open data, including development work on (view case study), and we’re also active members of GovHack. We’re looking forward to playing a continuing role in the open data revolution.

What is open platform?

Open platform is essentially an enterprise-grade, cloud-agnostic hosting platform that’s completely open source. Open platform is a new paradigm shift for government and industry as a whole.

Thanks to the disruption of cloud, infrastructure as code (IAC) — sometimes referred to as programmable infrastructure — provides IT infrastructure that operations’ teams can automatically manage and provision through code, rather than using a manual process.

Thanks further to innovators such as Google, cloud-agnostic IAC is possible with platforms like Kubernetes. Kubernetes is essentially a portable, extensible open-source platform for managing containerised workloads and services, which facilitates both declarative configuration and automation. (You may also like to read our blog What is containerisation?) Kubernetes was donated to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), a vendor-neutral home for fostering collaboration and community engagement between strong global contributors of open platform solutions.

Open and agnostic platform technologies such as Kubernetes have provided a strong foundation for open source platform projects (aka distributions) focused on optimised stacks for specific and individual applications. Open source CMSs such as Drupal are no exception.

Salsa has teamed up with open platform experts to enhance and deliver open platforms to our government and non-government clients. Specifically, amazee’s open source platform project (distribution) Lagoon is a platform built and optimised for Drupal and supports other open source CMSs based on the LAMP/LEMP stack such as Wordpress. Lagoon has helped us deliver whole-of-government digital platforms to government clients such as the Department of Finance (GovCMS) and Victoria's Department of Premier and Cabinet (Single Digital Presence).

What is open design?

Open design takes the concept of open source technology and open data and applies it to digital design artefacts. Our definition: A design artefact is open if anyone is free to use, reuse and redistribute it. This means open design elements are NOT subject to copyright and are NOT owned by one person/organisation/agency.

Open design is a new and emerging space, an area we’re moving into as keen advocates and key contributors. It has the power to deliver many benefits to government, such as:

  1. Time and cost savings

  2. Improved shared designs

  3. A strong, collaborative design community

  4. Lowering the barrier to innovation

Artefacts that could be shared through open design include things like citizen research and testing, information architecture (IA), wireframes (low fidelity), full visual designs, and templates.

Salsa’s commitment to open design is demonstrated through our inhouse open design practice and our OpenDesign2020 project.

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