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Macau Government Portal for Civil Servants

By building its portal services with open source components running on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, Macau SAFP gained a stable, flexible, low-cost platform offering excellent performance.

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About Macau Government Portal for Civil Servants

Macau is one of the Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China. A Portuguese administrative region until 1999, Macau occupies an area of 11 square miles on the south coast of China and has 520,000 inhabitants. Macau is now a major tourist destination with booming convention and gambling industries.

Challenge

Macau SAFP is the Public Administration and Civil Service Bureau in Macau, a government agency with the following main responsibilities: studies, coordination, technical guidance to improve the civil servants' management policies, modernization and reform of the public administration. The organisation has an eGovernment (eGov) team of approximately 10 people. Aiming to create an interactive portal for all civil servants that could later be extended to the public, the team found that its existing software platforms lacked the necessary flexibility and interoperability.

Working with closed source software made it difficult for eGov to link portal services to the existing infrastructure, including user directories and databases, and threatened to hinder future development of the portal. In particular, eGov wanted the flexibility to add new services or groups of users rapidly, and its existing software tools would not support this at low cost.

In addition, using closed source proprietary software did not fit eGov's strategic commitment to openness and independence for its IT services.

Novell Solution

eGov considered a solution based on proprietary technologies, but rejected it in favour of a set of open source components running on SUSE® Linux Enterprise Server. The solution was designed, developed and rolled out with help from Novell Technical Services, and is built largely on the "LAMP" solution stack: Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP.

"We felt that Novell would offer stronger support than many other companies, and that SUSE Linux Enterprise would allow easier integration with our Novell eDirectory™ solution," said Gabriel Santos, Senior Technical Consultant. "Furthermore, our experience of working with Novell Technical Services was very positive."

The new portal is a platform for disseminating information and hosting discussions among civil servants. All new legislation is published immediately to the portal, which also holds a full catalogue of all government services. In the past, each service had its own Web site, and users would spend significant amounts of time hunting for information. As well as being able to find information more easily, civil servants can now post documents and enquiries in virtual meeting rooms, helping each other to solve problems quickly and efficiently.

"The portal unites a number of information sources in a single, central resource that is fully integrated with our user directory," said Santos. "In the seven months since go-live, around 15,000 users signed up, contributing a total of 100,000 messages."

The move to open source software was driven primarily by cost considerations: eGov wanted to move its investment from software licensing to IT staff training. Simultaneously, the adoption of open source has made the organisation less dependent on any single vendor.

"Much open source software today is as reliable and stable as proprietary offerings, and the security is often better," said Santos. "SUSE Linux Enterprise is a commercial-grade product that benefits from a broad user-base and worldwide support."

eGov plans to introduce Novell Identity Manager to support a new extranet covering multiple government agencies. The organisation already uses SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop, and will promote its adoption across these agencies.

Results

By selecting open source technologies for its new portal services, eGov gained a secure, flexible and low-cost platform to promote the free exchange of information. The solution is stable and easy to administer, and the flexibility of components such as Apache Tomcat and SUSE Linux Enterprise has accelerated the development of new services.

"Other government agencies have difficulty integrating their closed source components, and of course the cost is very high," said Santos. "By contrast, the LAMP approach with SUSE Linux Enterprise gives us flexibility and easy development, at much lower cost."

With a shorter time–to–market for new services, the Novell solution will help eGov keep the portal relevant to internal users.

"SUSE Linux Enterprise offers a stable environment that is easy to tune to our changing requirements," said Santos. "We achieved a fast rollout of the portal thanks to expert help from Novell Technical Services. Many other vendors have a tendency to vanish once the sale is complete; with Novell, the after-sales service is excellent, which gives us confidence that the solution will continue to serve our needs in the future."

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