Governments are good at many things. They provide innumerable services to their citizens, orchestrating hundreds of departments, agencies, and bureaus. They employ a massive workforce and point them all toward the betterment of the country and its populace.
However, translating complexity at this level into a cohesive web presence is a challenge that eludes even the most efficient bureaucracies. Agencies are commonly charged with building their own websites. Because each may require vastly different functionality, this system tends to produce a clutter of sites that work, look, and are organized very differently from each other.
That was the position the government of Uruguay found themselves in. After decades of digital transformation, citizens had access to a wide range of essential services and information online but faced an inconsistent and sometimes confusing collection of destinations.
The government knew they could do better, but weren’t sure how to begin. The volume of content that needed to be deconstructed and rebuilt was daunting in the extreme.
After a long process of weighing their options, AGESIC chose Kadabra IT as a technological partner, and we got to work.
Over the years, Uruguay had spent significant time and resources in building its digital infrastructure. Citizens had access to over 200 different websites, covering every conceivable aspect of the country’s governance.
Unfortunately, many of the sites were created in a vacuum. They worked well on their own but shared few common features. They all looked different and organized information in distinct ways that could be difficult to grasp if you were used to how another site behaved.
Data was duplicated, often numerous times, across the spectrum of websites. Citizens might have their contact information saved with seven different agencies, but because sites couldn’t communicate, making a change in one place would leave the incorrect information everywhere else.
There were also problematic inconsistencies in the application of security and accessibility standards. Some sites did an excellent job, while others made mistakes that put data at risk and made it more challenging for a portion of the population to access services.
Uruguay desperately needed a single model to serve as a foundation for every site under their purview. The model needed to comply with commonly accepted international best practices, including the WCAG 2.0 accessibility standards and the OWASP Top 10, a document detailing critical security standards for web applications.
Most importantly, this reinvention of the government’s web presence needed to make it easy and enjoyable for citizens to access everything the government provided. Whether a user was looking for information on the presidency, to procure services through the Ministry of Public Health, or pull permits for a construction project, the information should be organized consistently. Each site should look similar, include a familiar navigation format, and approach forms, applications, and other user input methods in a standardized fashion.
In short, although the government maintained over 200 different websites, the user should feel as if they’re accessing a single, homogeneous presence no matter where they made contact. It was a colossal endeavor, but our experience had prepared us for it.
We created a Drupal 8 distribution that we rolled out under the overarching domain Gub.uy. Citizens no longer had to contend with differing addresses. Every site was consolidated under this flagship domain. For example, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could be found at https://www.gub.uy/ministerio-relaciones-exteriores/, while the Ministry of Public Health was located at https://www.gub.uy/ministerio-salud-publica/.
Beyond the obvious benefit of bringing every site under a single umbrella, our approach created a centralized “instruction set” for building member websites. Drupal distributions provide site features and functions as a single download, containing Drupal core, contributed modules, themes, and pre-defined configurations.
Using this method we created a standard toolbox and visual palette that was easily shared between sites. This made it possible to rapidly build a complex, use-specific site in fewer steps than would have been possible individually.
Over a period of months, we rebuilt every disparate site to comply with our new aesthetic and information architecture standards. In the process, we eliminated all of the duplicated data that was bogging down the system. We did this by consolidating shared resources and building common references.
Imagine that a particular health minister’s information — her name, photo, and biography, for instance — were found on 20 different websites. Under the previous architecture, each of these would have to be updated individually. Now the change is made once, and it automatically propagates to the 20 locations where it’s displayed. If the minister leaves, it’s a simple matter to add their replacement’s information.
We created the Gub.uy Drupal distribution to be easy to install. Everything an agency needs to create a new site is contained in a single package. The entire process takes less than an hour. When they’re finished they have access to everything they need to design a destination that aligns with all requisite aesthetic, useability, security, and accessibility standards.
High praise for our efforts came early and hasn’t ceased since the project was completed. The Uruguayan state was enormously impressed with the results of the redesign, as well as the simplicity of maintenance.
We worked closely with the infrastructure team of the Presidency of the Republic to design a system of continuous integration that automates the validation of quality controls, code standards, and security protocols. If a sitewide change is required, it can be made once and instantly propagated throughout the Gub.uy ecosystem. What would have taken hundreds or thousands of hours in the past can be completed in just a handful.
Our Gub.uy Drupal distribution has improved the lives of millions of Uruguayan residents. They now have safe, simple, dependable access to government services from a single portal. In turn, the government can quickly and easily create new branches of the Gub.uy family of sites and maintain the entire system reliably, and with a fraction of the resources needed previously.
To say they’re pleased is an understatement. They were ecstatic and remain so today. And how often does a web development company get to make such a difference on such a grand scale? We thoroughly enjoyed this project and are excited about what lies ahead.