WA Justice dept future-proofs applications

Western Australia's Department of Justice (DoJ) is future-proofing its applications for possible exposure to outside agencies or the general public.

Formed from the merger of various government agencies including Correctional Services, Courts, the Department of Public Prosecutions, Crown Solicitor's and Solicitor General's office, DoJ has mapped out an enterprise-wide .Net framework to meet the dual challenges of integrating disparate systems and future needs.

Before its formation in 1996, the government agencies making up the DoJ had developed independently, had no history of interworking and technology sophistication levels differed markedly.

Taking a more strategic and architectural approach developed with outsourcer CSC, the DoJ's Enterprise Architecture Group (EAG) standardised on Microsoft's .Net platform as part of a strategy which included taking a Web Services approach to integrating and developing applications, said CSC’s account director, Department of Justice, Tony Harris.

The department's aims were to develop new application modules within three to six months; be able to change or create new applications quickly to accommodate legislative changes; create messaging interfaces between internal and external systems, and e-enable existing and future applications for e-business deployment if required.

Using a combination of Microsoft Windows DNA (Distributed Internet Architecture, the Windows NT and 2000 precursor to .Net) and .Net frameworks, DoJ has achieved this. Examples include: building in 10 days a new module for capturing offenders' DNA results; and exposing a lodgements module externally to allow the electronic lodgement of summonses over the Internet.

A 'Microsoft shop', the DoJ uses Visual Basic .Net as its prime developer tool and runs Microsoft desktop, operating system and office applications, with the aim of standardising on Microsoft databases such as SQL over the next five to seven years. Currently, however, the variety of systems deployed, including Data General Unix based systems and an Oracle database running on Sun Microsystems' Solaris OS with a Microsoft NT front end, present a challenge.

XML and SOAP, however, make it easy to integrate applications and eventually the DoJ may want to expose some of those Web Services externally. While different parts of the department have yet to decide on allowing public or B2B access, the EAG's strategy is to build capability in by writing everything around Web Services.

Nevertheless, the DoJ currently has links with three outside organisations using a Web Services interface. The AIMS Corporation runs privately-owned prisons and needs to interface with the DoJ's Offender Management system, TOMS. There is a link being tested with the Police Department, scheduled to go live early 2003 and another link in test with the Department of Transport.

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Darren Baguley

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