eGovernment plone projects in SwitzerlandΒΆ

Tags: sorrentosprint2007, plone

In Switzerland, some Kantons (districts) are using plone for intranets and websites, there is also a UN website, and several other government agencies use it. Still it is a problem to promote plone. Some of the problems:

  • IT departments are scared of open source as they've invested a lot in Microsoft and fear for their job if open source works well.
  • Commercial players lobby well amongst decision makers. And it works.
  • "Nobody is fired if a project based on Microsoft or Oracle fails".
  • Big projects have to go through a very elaborate tendering process which is way too expensive for individual smaller companies.
  • Open source is perceived as "linux on the desktop".
  • There are not enough plone companies in Switzerland.

Open source also has its advantages. You can do guerrilla marketing because, if you find the right people, you can give them the open source software, install it for them and they'll run it "in secret". Afterwards, if it works, they will evangelise in their own organisation. You have freely distributable prototypes, so it is easy to try out. You can get excellent service, also you have an international community around it.

Plone is set up in a modular way, so something like PloneGov can be developed in small steps. Individual government instances can arrange for the creation of individual parts, which can be exchanged with the other government instances. You pool resources in this way and you can stay below the amount of money where you'd need the expensive tendering process.

They're now looking at some dossier/record management system within that PloneGov project. Bernard showed us the current state of the application. One of the things that they changed compared to core plone is a distinction between a "desktop" and a "repository". So no in-place editing of items, you first check out an item out of your repository and place it on your desktop before you can edit it. (Desktop in this case is just a personal working area inside plone, not your computer's desktop). When you're ready, you place it again into the repository. There's also a way to assign tasks to people (which uses archetypes' reference mechanism a lot).

The customers helped them a lot by telling them the things that were wrong with the current existing commercial systems. None of those systems is fully adapted to the organisations' needs.

As PloneGov, they hope to make it really easy for governments to pool relatively small amounts of money to get additional functionality. They are turning it into an open source project. In that way it also could be used in whole or in parts in other countries.

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