Not everything needs to be built from scratch. Reusing existing platforms from other governments can reduce development time, and putting wrappers around commercial commodity services can allow for the use of commercial offerings with less risk of lock-in or loss of control.

1. Borrow from other governments

While government platforms are a relatively new thing, there are opportunities to reuse the work of other governments. This includes reusing entire platforms, learnings from user research, guidance and standards.1

One example of this is the Digital Transformation Agency in Australia reusing the UK’s GOV.UK Notify messaging platform.2 Because the code was open-source, developers were able to quickly evaluate and set up their own implementation.3 Another example is the reuse of by city and state governments across the US.4

During the discovery phase of a platform project, understand what other governments might have approached this problem before. Try contacting the teams and asking for advice.

2. Put wrappers around commercial, commodity components

In some instances, there may be components available on the commercial market that could be used as part of a platform ecosystem - for example, cloud hosting or digital payment providers. Creating thin wrappers around these can minimize the risk of lock-in, maintain control over the user experience and enforced standards. For example, in the US, to is built on top of Amazon Web Services, and meets the standards set by FedRAMP (a standard approach to security governance across the US federal government).5

This approach may also open up new opportunities to manage demand and increase robustness. In the UK, GOV.UK Pay supports multiple payment providers and GOV.UK Notify awards contracts to multiple SMS gateways.67

The approach of building wrappers around commercial components will work best for those which have some of the characteristics of ‘commodities’ i.e. they are well-defined, stable, and can be swapped in or out as required. You can use Wardley Mapping to help understand if potential components are commodities or not.8

Example: Reusing GOV.UK Notify in Australia

“We knew Notify had been very successful in the UK.”

“It was good for us as the source code was all there and available for our developers to go through, and that it was designed to run on similar cloud infrastructure. That meant that when we started the Alpha of our notifications platform, we could go in and see if GOV.UK Notify was fit for purpose.”

“It was a huge boost to getting started, but there was still work to do. The UK is single timezone based on UTC and Australia has three. We also had to change currency, financial year and phone number format to work for Australia. Then we had to slot in our design system (which was a bit harder because of our federal government system).”

“Reusing something like Notify fit’s with our ethos: get it out early and then improve it and make it fit for what Australia needs.” — Felicity Hitchcock, Product Manager, Tell Us Once and Platforms, DTA

  1. See for lists of platforms, standards and design systems. 

  2. DTA, “govau/notify”, GitHub, Retrieved 25th June 2019. 

  3. Interview 

  4. Melody Kramer, “Tips for adapting from Tennessee, Boulder, and Philadelphia”, 18F Blog, 6th January 2016, 

  5. “What is”, Retrieved 24th June 2019. 

  6. HM Government, “GOV.UK Pay’s Payment Service Provider”, Retrieved 24th June 2019. 

  7. Mark Say, “GDS awards SMS firms GOV.UK Notify contracts”, UKAuthority, 30th January 2019, 

  8. Simon Wardley, “How commodity is something?”, Bits of Pieces?, 15th September 2015,