​Local SME Salsa Digital awarded GovCMS contract

Salsa Digital will be operating the whole-of-government content management system previously handled by global firm Acquia.

The Australian Department of Finance has appointed Victorian-based small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) Salsa Digital to provide program, application, and support services for the next iteration of Government Content Management System (GovCMS).

Finance went to market in February to find a vendor to continue the operation of GovCMS, a role previously filled by global giant Acquia. Under the new arrangement, Salsa Digital will provide software-as-a-service (SaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) hosting on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) public cloud, using the Drupal open source content management system (CMS).

According to Finance, Salsa Digital will offer support and program management in close collaboration with the department, while its subcontractor amazee.io will manage the underlying hosting platform and infrastructure.

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GovCMS is an initiative under Finance, built around the principle "create once, use often" in a bid to simplify government IT and eliminate duplicated, fragmented, and sub-scale activities across agencies.

The content management and website hosting platform was developed to reduce the technology and compliance burden on government agencies, while providing a more cost-effective option for managing websites.

According to Finance, it provides agencies with a platform to design, develop, and host websites, allowing them to focus on providing content and services to the community.

At the same time, the concept of GovCMS aims to build "communities of digital expertise" across all levels of government.

Finance first began offering the GovCMS platform to agencies in 2015 and the new hosting arrangements will be available for GovCMS customers before the end of 2018.

The department said it will manage the migration of existing SaaS websites to the new platform, and will work with agencies to migrate PaaS sites across once SaaS migrations are complete.

"GovCMS websites will operate in a fully containerised environment which will reduce and simplify agency development efforts, with the same setup and configuration across environments," Finance wrote. "All SaaS websites will be highly available, with a guaranteed uptime of 99.99 percent and have self-healing capabilities. PaaS websites can elect for the higher availability option."

In the request for proposal (RFP) published in February, Finance said it wanted to improve the overall delivery of mobile-responsive websites across the government, including having a more "standardised" user experience when dealing with whole-of-government.

Just over three years ago, GovCMS inked a AU$24 million, four-year deal with the Massachusetts-based SaaS provider and panel member Acquia to implement the whole-of-government platform. Finance said previously it had no intention of modifying the agreement with Acquia and the current Drupal Services Panel as part of the RFP.

According to Finance, the new hosting solution for GovCMS will be built on a "full-stack open source, cloud-agnostic platform, complementing the open source GovCMS Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 distributions".

It said the platform will provide all the tools and environments for developing, testing, deploying, managing, supporting, and hosting GovCMS sites.

GovCMS currently boasts 223 live sites, with another 37 currently in development. There are 77 government agencies using the platform.

Awarding the contract to an SME comes as the Digital Transformation Agency is attempting to spread the AU$6.5 billion spent annually on IT by the Australian government across the smaller players by refreshing the way the government procures IT-related services, starting with the archaic panel process.

National Health Practitioner Ombudsman and Privacy Commissioner: It wasn't a breach

Earlier this week, the office of the National Health Practitioner Ombudsman and Privacy Commissioner encountered a "technical issue" that took its website offline on Tuesday evening.

A spokesperson told ZDNet the issue that exposed its directory listing, with access to an SQL database dump, was a result of routine website maintenance.

"The website is public-facing and its purpose is to provide general information only about the work of the National Health Practitioner Ombudsman and Privacy Commissioner," the spokesperson said of the WordPress-based website.

"It is important to note that the website does not host or collect identifying personal information, or health information such as medical records.

"The cause was not cybersecurity-related, but a maintenance issue, and the situation was rectified by 9:40pm on Tuesday evening."

The website misconfiguration came as the Australian government was dealing with security concerns over its contentious My Health Record digital medical file.

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