SilverStripe’s successful bid for the all-of-government common web platform contract represents an initial stage of development and the New Zealand company may have as little as a year’s window to exploit its exclusive status.
SilverStripe was awarded the contract last month.
DIA online services product manager Bene Anderson told a recent seminar on the web platform strategy that media criticism of the all-of-government contract is unjustified. “We’re not trying to take over the world of web and tell all government people ‘you must use this solution’,” he says. Use of the platform, based on SilverStripe’s content management system (CMS), is voluntary.
Moreover, though the project starts with one content management system, “as part of the common web platform, there’s an operational review board that gets together once a year and they might [find] 25 agencies are screaming for a similar platform using a different technology. If that were the case and [two or more alternatives] made sense then it could be extended,” Anderson says.
The current platform represents an initial strategy with “limited scope” he says, applying to simple websites without complex database-access needs and with a choice of one CMS. In future the strategy could be expanded in both respects.
“It’s a choice; I hope it’s a compelling choice. I will be promoting it; but at the end of the day, if it doesn’t suit your business needs, that’s your agency’s choice; it’s not being forced on you,” Anderson told the seminar.
The development is an example of platform-as-a-service; a managed infrastructure that sits at the bottom of the stack, provided by Revera through the government infrastructure-as-a service contract. SilverStripe will install the CMS and provide services to support the website developers in – or retained by – the agency. The choice of function and look-and-feel is for the individual agency, though the platform will include website templates.
A single platform will make it possible to impose uniform standards of accessibility and, in particular, security, says Anderson.
In July this year, DIA plans to connect its identity management scheme, RealMe, to the platform. The RealMe brand will then apply to the whole of the service. The internal government brand at present is iGovt; the name RealMe has applied only to the planned version of the service, in collaboration with NZ Post, that verifies identity for private-sector transactions.
One aim of the web-platform arrangement is to improve collaboration and reuse, and a central repository will be set up for participating agencies to contribute pieces of code and uncontroversial data – one agency might, for example, create a list of New Zealand towns that would be useful to others as part of their website. SilverStripe will provide the repository, but will not control its content.
Charging scales for the service are not being generally released and will be supplied to aspiring users only when they have signed a memorandum of understanding.