Ottawa Showcase of Drupal in Government



August 20, 2009

It was the first sunny day we've had in a week, a perfect day to spend on a patio after work drinking a pint. However 35 people made their way to The Code Factory to attend the Drupal in Government Showcase. This was the largest Drupal event ever held in Ottawa and it clearly demonstrated that there is interest in this Content Management System.

Having organized the event we wanted to highlight the CLF 2.0 theme that are providing to the community as well as the extensive work that we have done on introducing accessibility enhancements to Drupal.

NOTE: We have since followed up with another Drupal in Government event which was recorded future use.

We had three interesting case studies presented. Mark Stephenson of RealDecoy, presented on their work with the Canadian Human Rights Museum. Steve Etlinger of Wirespeak presented two case studies of their experience developing Drupal sites for government clients. 


The three remaining speakers touched on range of related issues. Jason Prini talked briefly about digitalOttawa's Common Look & Feel site.   Andrew Ross from Ingres (now & FOSSLC talked briefly about their work to bring Drupal to work with the Ingres database and the FOSSLC's implementation of Drupal.  The User Advocate Group's Michael Baynger gave a short talk about usability as it pertains to Drupal.

People attended from a number of government departments including Canadian Transportation Agency, Justice Canada, National Search and Rescue Secretariat, Agriculture Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Treasury Board, National Capital Commission, Canadian Border Security Agency, Environment Canada, City of Ottawa.

The majority were not Drupal users, but were interested in powerful, flexible & multi-lingual CMS and wanted to learn more.  Having a range of developers speaking to Drupal's strengths and weaknesses was useful as this was clearly not a sales pitch by a marketing department. Having competing organizations present together shows clearly the strength of having a collaborative development community.

Accessibility was one of the central points of the discussion around this session. The Government of Canada's CLF 2.0 guidelines include the Priority 1 and Priority 2 checkpoints of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (WCAG). The universal accessibility guidelines are common to a lot of government agencies who have a mandate to communicate with the public. 

Since the theme layer is distinct from the core application, many of the accessibility challenges that are outstanding can be resolved with an improved Drupal CLF theme. Most of the work that OpenConcept has been doing on accessibility issues has been focused on Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (ATAG) and improvents to form management.

There was interest in having another meeting in the fall to continue the discussions that were started here.  We may look at creating an open software stack and describing how to build a scalable, secure web solution with Drupal. Could see inviting RedHat, Ingres, & Alfresco to present on solutions bringing open source web applications to government.

About The Author

Mike Gifford is the founder of OpenConcept Consulting Inc, which he started in 1999. Since then, he has been particularly active in developing and extending open source content management systems to allow people to get closer to their content. Before starting OpenConcept, Mike had worked for a number of national NGOs including Oxfam Canada and Friends of the Earth.