NetFluency is a web site built on the open-source content management system, Drupal. In this first content on NetFluency I will develop a proposition that the ICT industry in Australia could greatly enhance its added-value to the Australian economy if it transitioned more broadly to open-source platforms for delivery of ICT services.
According to the 2011 ACS Statistical Compendium the value of the Australian digital economy is about $100B. So the benefits of driving ever increasing value and productivity for Australian industry is potentially huge. How does an open-source platform help this?
The concept is that an open source platform such as Drupal has a global developer and user base ensuring long term durability, compatibility and global markets for applications. Drupal has nearly 20,000 deveopers and powers over 2% of all web sites including The White House, The Economist, The Australian Law Reform Commission, The National Library of Australia and Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. The Drupal platform has core functionality and a set of APIs for the extension of functionality via modules or applications. Core functionality includes access control, roles, theme engines, taxonomy, configurable content types, database views, triggers, actions, tracking and web 3.0 functions. Added applications include WYSIWYG editors, themes, media handling, social media, ecommerce and thousands of others addressing almost every conceivable need.
Applications on this platform are most often open-source but particular services can leverage proprietary IP. ICT services can be in design, development, training, customisation and management. But they might also be in specialised cloud services such as certification, security, media processing, distributions and countless other areas. The advantage of open-source applications is that they are open to the whole developer community (over 10,000 people in the case of Drupal) for enhancements and for exposing and closing security flaws quickly and effectively.
Major companies which still hold the proprietary software line are Microsoft, Apple and Oracle. However, the stakes are very high as exemplified by the patent battles between Apple and Samsung and the long-running case between Microsoft and the EU which has recently resulted in a €860M fine being upheld by the European General Court. However, even Microsoft is now demonstrating a greater acceptance of open-source. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_source_movement.
Drupal and other such platforms extend open-source server capability into the applications layer. Drupal is more of a business platform than Wordpress and Joomla, two other big names in content management. Drupal's coding standards and its core functionality are generally accepted to be more advanced, structured and disciplined than others in the field.
What then can a platform such as Drupal offer the Australian business community?
- Secure collaborative workgroup environments
- Structured communications directed to results
- Workflow documentation, measurement and control - the essence of quality management
- Web 3.0 capabilities for research and web marketing such as SPARQL, RDF and social media integration
- Specialised functionality by industry sector and by customer
- Access to global markets
Areas of Australian ICT focus could be on industry sector applications and distributions, integration of Australian ecommerce services, optimisation of workflows.