AGIMO may open source custom CMS

Four months after successfully implementing a new content management system (CMS), the Australian Government Information Management Offfice (AGIMO) is now considering whether or not to make the source code for it available to anyone in addition to other government departments and not-for-profit organizations.

AGIMO’s manager of security and emerging technologies Peter Alexander outlined the possibility of licensing the CMS under the GNU General Public Licence (GPL) during a presentation at this year’s AUUG conference in Melbourne last week.

“In terms of intellectual property in our CMS, we got the base product and developed a few extra modules with Squiz and when you do work with the government, and the government is paying for it, it becomes the government’s intellectual property unless some other arrangement is entered into,” Alexander said.

AGIMO has given those modules back to the open source vendor Squiz.net under a contractual licence to be given free of charge to all levels of Australian government and not-for-profits.

“The question ‘why not just give it away to everyone’ has been asked a number of times and that’s under consideration – whether we GPL the AGIMO-specific modules and just allow anyone to have them and use the developments that might go from there,” he said. “We are actively considering that at the moment.”

AGIMO chose the MySource Matrix, a “fully open source” CMS developed with Squiz.net, which Alexander said has created “considerable” interest and “was cheaper than a number of other solutions”.

“Our successful implementation of it is a great example and it will be a case study in the open source guide so agencies can have a look at it and get some idea what we’ve done,” he said. “In terms of the contract we have for that arrangement, the parts we like best about it are the licensing arrangement which is all in the contract. We have a flexible maintenance SLA where we pay for what we get, and if anything goes wrong with the company providing it we can find other people who will do it.”

AGIMO’s general manager of sourcing and security, Steve Alford, said a realistic time-frame for the release of the open source procurement guide for government is early December this year.

“We’ve tried to use it [the CMS] as a test bed to understand how you would buy and implement an open source product and what documentation – in a government context – you would need to put around that in such a way that other agencies could pick it up relatively easily,” Alford said.

“When you’re buying open source you’re not getting a pre-packaged thing in a box and you almost have to draft that from scratch yourself and that can be quite daunting for an agency. In the government space these are the things people have to cover off when they look at value for money and fit for purpose.”

Alford said AGIMO now has a system that works and also has all the documentation that goes around the purchase and managing the product lifecycle.

“This changes the profile of an open source product from an interesting technology into something that’s much more comparable with the things you might buy in the proprietary world,” he said.

Alexander said the simple message around procurement for government is value for money.

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