Open-source software as a force for good in local government

open-source software, digital transformation

Will Huggins, CEO of Zoocha Ltd, explains why open-source software is emerging as a digital transformation enabler in local government

When reviewing software solutions, it is not uncommon to hear the phrase “open source software has won” suggesting that the proprietary software giants have “lost”, but anyone who has worked on public sector digital transformation projects will know the reality is not quite so simplistic.

Rising above legacy technologies

Like all large organisations, local councils are living with technology choices made in the past that have created a complex maze of fragmented systems and siloed services. At the same time, the citizens they serve have become more technology literate and expect the digital services they use to be connected, intuitive and reliable. Trying to reconcile these two conflicting realities is daunting.

COVID-19 has sharpened the focus on this conflict as many of the ‘offline’ channels to access council services have been limited or even totally inaccessible to many users. Add to that the acute financial pressure that local authorities are under and the scale of the challenge is huge.

Be Open and Use Open Source

Back in 2017, the Government Digital Service (GDS) published “The Technology Code of Practice” as a blueprint to help government organisations design, build and buy better technology. Point 3 of the 12-point code of practice is to “be open and use open source”, an important recognition that open source technology can be used to:

  • Solve common problems
  • Lower implementation and operating costs
  • Free up budgets and resources to focus on user-centred solution design
  • The power of community

open-source software, digital transformation

The benefits of open-source software are well known and understood – large communities of developers creating, refining and improving code to create robust platforms that can be downloaded and used, free from commercial licence costs. It is a tantalising proposition that promises a practical solution to the problems of digital transformation. So why is it so difficult? The answer lies in the word community. A community of developers can build great software, but it needs a community of end-users to turn that software into turnkey solutions for a specific purpose.

This is why, 20 years after Drupal was founded, the LocalGov Drupal project is beginning to transform how local councils publish on the web. With a little central funding and a lot of effort from the ever-growing community of local councils, the transformational power of open-source software is being realised.

Support from the marketplace

In addition to the local council representatives, the community has welcomed contributions from Drupal service providers like Zoocha who are combining free resources with their paid services to help accelerate the progress of the project. This is creating a growing ecosystem of suppliers that local councils can call upon to help them take advantage of LocalGov Drupal, even if they do not have the capability in house to implement it.

About Zoocha

Zoocha is a specialist digital agency, using open-source software like Drupal to create enterprise-scale websites and applications for large public and private-sector organisations. As a leading Drupal solutions provider, Zoocha helps local government organisations to leverage the power of Drupal to transform their digital customer experiences.

Please note: This is a commercial profile

© 2019. This work is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND.

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