I was doing my usual rounds of content curation when I stumbled upon the website of the government of an African country known for attracting the world to its sandy beaches and sunny skies. For this touristic reputation amongst others, its website severely shocked me. Seriously. What Africa is currently experiencing is a well hidden ICT crises.
Call me vain, but whenever I visit a website, its appearance pretty much dictates whether or not I’ll give it any credibility (or revisit it). Now when that website is owned by the government of a country and flaunted as the ‘gateway’ to the nation and its people, the hawked-eyed me takes over.
After looking at over 15 websites, I came to the informed conclusion that many African countries are stuck in a technology time warp that affects how projects like a government portal are built. There’s a simple explanation for this. Bureaucracy and bottlenecking, lack of understanding (read: education) on ICTs, nepotism and favoritism, long procurement cycles for even minor government technology projects, slow speed of approval to operate new technologies that government or private IT managers have to deal with all contribute to the glacial adoption and implementation of new technology. With the faces at the top of government agencies changing every few years, each bringing some marquee project to burnish their résumés, it can take a decade to effect policy changes that last.
Of course, all of that mediocrity goes on the country’s official public gateway — its website — for everyone (far and near) to see and judge everyone in-country. Our governments lag far behind current technology outside the islands of modernization created by high-profile (private sector led) projects. Don’t be surprised that in 2014, a government agency's standard server platform is still Windows Server 2003.
But I digress.
Isn’t it time our governments stop embarassing citizens who can and have single handedly built the most innovative (private owned) websites/blogs over the years and embrace modern design and open source? If the main government portal is not up to par, what do we expect of those at state/regional level? (Did I just say states? (Okay, scratch that.)
Below are a few (I concentrated on the most prominent African countries, I am subjective like that) government portals that drag the continent backwards. Literally.
Poor try. Too many font types and colours. Different logos juxtapositioned. Main menu on top, a quick start menu bang in the middle…. all too confusing.
Not bad actually. Too much text. I actually thought they could play with the colours of their beautiful flag to come up with a captivating homepage but well…
I have no comments whatsoever. (This is instantly forgettable. How much did they say was allocated to build this again?)
Can you see a trend in these websites? Looks like they were built by the same webmaster right? That’s because in Africa, we don’t know when not to copy and paste.
When the webmaster left Ghana, he went to Senegal.
A bit different. (Obviously) — they stayed away from the text, text and more text and over did it with the pictures, pictures and more pictures. Trying too hard to be cutting-edge means ending up being too awkward.
Bland. Looks as if it was designed in 2003. And what’s with the additional bland background?
A badly cloned Washington Post format? You be the judge.
A really good effort I’d say. If only the items in the body were clickable. Most weren’t. ☹
Here’s a really bad version of the DRC’s portal. All this detail on the home page???
When was this done? 1999? Considering Mugabe’s picture here, the answer to that must be a resounding ‘yes!’
Dreadful and disappointing. I mean, there is so much revenue from all that black gold to invest in a proper government portal isn’t there?
Repeat after me: No to pixelated pictures! No to pixelated pictures! No to pixelated pictures! I need my eyesight.
There is a reason why Rwanda are Africa’s IT kings. At least, their official gateway is something to write home about.
Interesting colours plus uninteresting content equals?
THE (plausible) BETTER
By a long shot the better of the series. Simple, colourful, easy to navigate, and in 3 languages. You won’t believe Equitorial Guinea takes a prime spot here.
THE (absolute) WORST
Abysmal! For the country that takes the top tourism spot in Africa this is absolutely worth a tear. Or two. Or three. Where do we start?
THE VERY BEST
I never thought I’ll see it after going through the websites of 54 African countries, that of the C.A.R impressed and gave me some glimmer of hope! Of 54 countries only one can product such website quality? *tears* — but whoever built this put in some good thought. It’s crisp, elegant and speaks directly to anyone visiting the page. And you want to revisit it again and again. It is in English and French. Only downside: it is not compatible, so can’t be viewed on iPads, phones etc…but I guess that can be fixed. Bravo C.A.R! ☺
Mauritania: as horrendous as the Seychelles’. Perhaps even worse. Not updated since the chickens came to roost.
Benin: Connection timed out. (Read: “we are fed up of governments. The shop is closed. Go away”)
Somalia: No official government portal (I was told) Unimpressed with that of the PM’s office!
Mozambique: Sigh… (recipe for instant fatigue)
Gambia: Virtual disaster
Burkina Faso: A dear John letter…
Zambia: Page is under maintenance, visit us soon. (Disclaimer: Please note that Soon and African time don’t mix.)
Ethiopia: Lecture theatre-like… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Gabon: Poor poor poor…. poor Gabon. (Update: Was just sent another link for Gabon which I think exposes another problem: that of security? Which is the real official page? And I still think this one is poor.)
Chad: Brilliant home page, you don’t want to click for the next page… then the ruins emerge.
Madagascar: Why bother when there is nothing on the homepage? nada. niet, rien, nothing!
But this is Africa… know of any websites better than these?
Over to you.
UPDATE: Portal of the Republic of Benin is now back up. It is still quite unimpressive. ☹