United Nations - Delivering Australian government services with Open Source

Submitted by davidseth on Thu, 23/Jul/2015 - 11:54

United Nations - Delivering Australian government services with Open Source

Lego Architecture UN

I had the honour of being asked to speak at the United Nations on the digital transformation that is happening within the Australian government. It would also be my chance to connect with other delegates from around the world and learn what is shaping the future of their governments whilst sharing what is working and what could be done better here at home.

This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so I jumped at the chance. I had to quickly change some travel plans and work with the conference group to arrange my talk time and where I was going to stay. On top of all that, I had never been to New York so it all felt very exciting.

UN building
My first up-close view of the UN.

Digital transformation in Australia

For the past year and a half I have been working with the Australian government as a Solution Architect on their govCMS project.

govCMS is a whole of gov re-think about online, agile, accessibility, procurement, security, support and open source.

Not just code.

For a bit of a background, please refer to a previous govCMS post of mine.

The conference

UN conference

NYC Camp is an annual tech conference held at the United Nations. "A Mission-Driven Open Source Conference". All things Open Source together with a focus on making real change - from the individual all the way to government.

An short intro to my talk is below. The full presentation is available online.

My talk

The Australian Federal Government has taken the revolutionary step of standardising on Drupal in public cloud. govCMS is a Whole-of-Government solution that any federal or state level agency can join, leveraging the infrastructure, knowledge and experience of the collective government.

By pioneering this solution, the Australian Government are putting a stake in the ground and challenging the traditional private, proprietary, closed source approaches taken in the past. This opens up new possibilities and colloborations for other governments around the world in to develop a digital platform to interact with their citizens.

In this session, I'll be speaking about the process we took to take govCMS from an idea to a platform capable of delivering Government as a Service. I cover:

  • The creation of the govCMS Drupal distribution
  • Lessons learned along the way
  • How broad solutions can be engineered
  • The decisions needed to keep the govCMS codebase streamlined
  • The benefits this project brings to the Drupal community, to Australia, and to governments globally
  • How you can contribute

The conference

Such a unique and memorable location. I have been to numerous conferences around the world but never in such an iconic location. Every corner revealed some amazing room or piece of technology that seemed so familiar as I have seen them in countless movies.

UN room
Conference room prep


Translation Rooms
Multilingual translation rooms



Language switching
Voice switching and communications.



UN flags
UN Flags

New York City

It was nothing as I had expected. As this was the first time in NY I had all the stereotypes floating around in my head: rude people, a bit scary, can't go out at night, stay away from the subway... the list went on and on.

NYC skyline
The view from my hotel room. I couldn't stop looking at all the amazing buildings.

I am happy to say that none of that was the case. I had a wonderful time exploring the middle and lower part of Manhattan. The first few days were take up with the conference. Well, first I had to get used to the time difference, it is a killer going from Australia to the East Coast of the US. Then I had to put the finishing touches on my talk... I always promise myself I will finish well before the conference starts (next time!).

It was hard to come up with a short list of things to do and see in NY, I had three days after the conference was over and before I had to head out to Boston. Below is a small portion of the photos I took and the places I visited.

Natural History Museum
Natural History Museum



Natural History Museum
Reminded me of 2001



The food, the pizza... so good



Ellis Island signature
"Hidden" signatures that were uncovered on Ellis Island



Lego art
Amazing Lego art on display at the High Line


What do you think?

What are your thoughts on Drupal, government, NY? I would love to hear your opinion or get some feedback so please add a comment or drop me a line on Twitter: @davidseth.

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