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US Small Business Administration wins award for innovative, open source-based website

Open source is at the heart of the US Small Business Administration's new website, a project that came in under budget and has over-delivered in terms of functionality and ease of use.

Who says government can't innovate? As the US Small Business Administration recently demonstrated, government can innovate, and increasingly does so with open source.

The US Small Business Administration just won the prestigious 2008 GCN Technology Leadership Award for its innovative website, a site that had formerly been bogged down by proprietary BEA software. No more. The site, which coordinates some 9,000 resources throughout the US federal government for 21 different agencies, has seen a 30 percent increase in traffic since it was resurrected through open-source technologies, including Alfresco.

Nancy Sternberg, the project's hard-charging lead, built the revitalized around 37Signals' (Ruby-based) Basecamp, Google search, Alfresco's web content management, and MySQL. According to the article, the next phase will involve completely dumping BEA for JBoss. As she notes of the Alfresco piece, it's 50 percent of the cost of her former BEA implementation and was developed with just two full-time employees.

Not that it was easy:

[Sternberg] persevered as her team worked to create benefit statements for each agency. "I don't give up," she said. "We gave them tools that helped them go back to their agency. We were very successful in getting the naysayers to quiet down and even step up."

Think about that: A better web experience developed by significantly less money and few resources, all in the face of significant opposition. That's open source.

Disclosure: I am an Alfresco employee.