Authors: Anoop John, Vimal Joseph, Thomas P. Thomas
E-governance has grown and developed rapidly reflecting the social, economic and cultural changes happening. The increased usage of the web by the citizens, the ease of use, the ubiquity of digital connectivity, IoT have allowed for the emergence of a number of applications for Government to Citizen, Government to Government and Government to Business Services. Leveraging the web for citizen engagement, delivery of government services to citizens, businesses and inter-government departmental services is key to strengthening the e-governance capability of a government.
This necessitates an appropriate web tool.
In the current state of affairs, the choice narrows down to a distribution built on a powerful, scalable and adaptive Web Content Management System (WCMS). From amongst the Open Source alternatives given, Drupal stands out as a superior choice, as a tried and tested alternative. Drupal is specifically adopted as the technology platform for building websites of federal institutions in US and many other nations. The govCMS initiative of the Government of Australia is another prime example of using Drupal for e-governance initiatives on the web. Primary reason for this is, Drupal offers scalability to build websites ranging from simple to complex and customised websites.
FEATURES IN DRUPAL OPTIMIZING E-GOVERNANCE INITIATIVES
Notwithstanding the fact that there are a lot of CMS available out in the market, Drupal stands out from others due to its security, robustness, customizability and its ability to evolve with emerging trends in the digital technology space. Here are some of Drupal’s features that make it especially suitable for e-governance.
APIs: Generate APIs for third party websites so that Agency details reach the citizens through multiple ways. Integrate third party APIs for offering services from other authorised sites.
Social Media Integration: Merely publishing on website is not enough. The Drupal CMS platform provides all major social media integrations so that citizens receive updates instantly on social media.
Custom Modules: Grievance Redressal module, RTI submission, SMS notifications, Polls etc are some custom modules designed to meet citizen needs on the website.
Web Content Publishing
Easy to Use Workflow: No matter who all are in charge of the website administration, user roles and permissions can be set to decide who publishes a content. By default there will be draft moderation, review, publish and unpublish states offering finite levels of control. Custom workflow can be created to suit the organisational needs.
Built in Content Types: Whether the need be publishing of Government Orders, Gazette notifications, Events, News, Tenders, or Careers, specific content types can be incorporated for each of these. Along with this, revision and archiving helps to keep track of changes.
Multilingual: Leveraging on the multilingual module of Drupal, the portal will enable easy publishing and dissemination of content in English and the official language(s) of that particular country/province/state.
Role Based Content Access: Some contents/files can be made private and accessible to only those who have a particular role in the CMS.
Media and Digital Asset Management: This feature helps to organise various media files to display them and reuse them in various formats like slideshows, image gallery and videos.
Custom Theming and Modular Layout: Front end can be customised to suit the organisation branding while content blocks can be configured with simple drag and drop to suit the needs.
Guarding Government/Citizen Data and Web Infrastructure
Security: More than any other website, Government websites are vulnerable to security threat. Drupal 8 lines up a series of security features like Twig templates, no PHP input to core, exportable site configuration, hardened user sessions etc limiting penetrability to core through various actions. The dedicated community also identifies new threats and creates patches to ensure that vulnerability is restricted.
DRUPAL 8 AS THE DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY PLATFORM
Drupal 8 (D-8) is the latest offering from the community and it is a highly scalable platform that can create websites to handle millions of hits without affecting speed and performance. It is flexible to adding various functionalities and in handling large data. The architecture is designed for mobile first and it has excellent content authoring features with built in WYSIWYG editors. Flexible content delivery suits the API economy and D-8 offers seamless integration with the best-of-breed technologies to give the best digital experience.
Advantages for Building and Maintenance of CMS platform on Drupal 8 for Government Agencies
The CMS platform for government built on Drupal 8 comes with the following advantages that make it powerful and robust.
- No licensing cost on account of Drupal 8 being Open Source.
- No vendor lock in- as there is no mandatory lock in agreement with the provider. Since the source code is open, the Government has the option to develop a team to enhance the features on their own.
- Easy to upgrade and update given the vibrant community that backs Drupal and their practices of quick releases of updates and patches and commitment to roadmap.
- Agility is offered by the scalable and highly modular nature of Drupal making it easy to maintain, integrate with other systems and build additional features.
- Reusability is possible by coding as per Drupal coding standards making integration with other custom made Drupal applications extremely easy.
- Civic centred through simplifying website management and maintenance and cutting down expensive investments into those areas.
- Consistent brand experience using Atomic Design where design components are prepared at the atom level of the layout. Templates created out of these components ensures that the brand uniqueness is maintained. Further the components are reusable to create new layouts. This can generate an experience of familiarity with icons and layouts while visiting multi sites of a department or a ministry making site access convenient.
- Reduced complexity and effort duplication through modular components which is designed considering the typical content publishing needs of a Government agency.
- Quick onboarding of content publishers through a user friendly dashboard that enables easy content updating. Modification is easy without the need of any particular technical skill set.
- Easy management of a portfolio of sites using Multisite Feature of Drupal. Removes duplication of content updating efforts while maintaining data consistency.
- Reduced risk with common site architecture and validated code-Automated deployment of new modules and functionalities.
Enhanced Security Capabilities of Drupal 8 for Government Agencies
- In built Drupal 8 security features ensures privacy. Clickjacking, XSS attacks, SQL injections, are prevented in core. Presentation layer and data is separated to prevent intrusion.
- Core Security of Drupal 8 takes care of basic security requirement.
- Development of best practises enhance the security of the site.
- Community contributions: Highly active community to detect threats and do patching.
- Data privacy is secured by building with high standards of security ensuring citizen's rights to privacy and protecting the government site from external attacks.
High-end User Experience-People are culturally more tech savvy, expecting quicker and interactive services and the framework is designed considering these new technical culture.
Rich Citizen Engagement features including the following
- Mobile first-Making the services reach the growing ‘mCitizens’
- Location based content delivery-District based notifications
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) compliant-Ensuring inclusiveness by enabling accessibility for differently abled as well
- Social Media sharing-Ensures the policy awareness reaches the citizens quickly and directly
- High uptime leveraging on Drupal 8's core modularity and inherent strengths
Due to these very same reasons, we recommend to design the CMS for governments using the latest version of Drupal. Drupal 8 platform is the most advanced in open source technology and offers a host of features to create the best user experience.
By building a base version of a distribution in Drupal, it can be expanded in scope to suit the purpose of various government organisations. Zyxware Technologies has helped and is in the process of helping various governments in their e-governance initiatives. To know more, get in touch with us.
(Edited by Nisha Oommen)