Yes, that’s right, I said it. The moment you mention something remotely critical about the government some people get a bit uncomfortable.
However I felt I had to mention it in the spirit of speaking out about something that can be fixed without a lot of unnecessary consultation. After all we have a lot of talent locally that can do this
So where is the problem really? Who is dropping the ball? Is it the respective ministries, the Ministry of ICT or the developers tasked with carrying out this important job?
As most people know by now, the process of web development for State owned enterprises and the various ministries has always been handled largely by the Government Internet Service Provider (GISP). This is the “crack team” tasked with among other issues, creating web properties that represent the country on the internet.
We are in the year 2015 so this task is no longer as complicated as it used be. Not to say that web development is a no-brainer, far from it. It’s just that now, thanks to the availability of tools and the internet as a resource centre, there should be better sites that represent the face of State departments, Ministries, state owned enterprises and even the ruling party ZANU PF.
Relevant content, User Interface and User Experience deficiencies
The main national website, Zimbabwe Government Online, is where it all starts. First of all, it’s commendable that we have that up and running, complete with some links to the latest in news related to Zimbabwe. However more should be done about the overall appearance of the site that does little to give off the impression that this is the best you can see from us.
There’s no need to launch into an exploration of UI and UX dynamics, but these sites could at least have the right balance of colour, a smart use of text that doesn’t jade a visitor and options for navigation that won’t confuse or put off a visitor.
There’s also a huge challenge of posting relevant content. Isn’t field related information more valuable than photos of a Minister who just might be moved to another portfolio when the cabinet is reshuffled?
Where are the necessary facts and statistics for each ministry? Why should anyone researching on local agriculture, mining, ICT/Finance NOT find data on the state website?
Our image and impression counts
It’s a broken record from anyone pitching their services as a web developer: Image is everything and your site will say a lot about your organisation and in this case, country. I strongly doubt that this was considered for a lot of these sites.
Which makes me (and most likely other first time visitors) wonder; If the front yard looks like this what about the rest of the house? There’s the stench of neglect that’s in the air here and I wonder if we have other aspects of tech like online security on lock.
As far as presentation goes I would have expected kick-ass websites from the Ministry of ICT and the Ministry of Tourism, which is after all the herald of how wonderful our country is.
Although this wasn’t the case (unsurprisingly), tourism’s redemption has turned out to be the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority’s page which for purposes of national dignity is what is being used to lure our much needed tourist arrivals.
Keep your content updated please
A huge handicap that also grips parastatal websites and some private sector players as well is holding on to outdated information. Holding on to warm press releases can be ignored as some form of vanity but seriously, what does last year’s “exciting” calendar have to do with 2015?
On the ruling party’s page there haven’t been any updates on information related to party structures, the Presidium (It still has the late Comrade John L Nkomo as the Vice President!) or the list of fallen heroes.
While we are on that tip, why can’t the National Heroes Acre have it’s own website which would be updated regularly and flooded with war stories?
Take Social Media Seriously
At the time of publishing the Ministry of ICT, Postal and Courier Services website was not working. As far as I can tell it’s been offline for hours now, it could be more but who can tell? After all no-one communicates this. This communication could have been carried out through social media.
Then again, There isn’t a well sculptured social media strategy for these state departments. This can be excused, for now, as a failure to adapt to something that hasn’t been fully understood by most nations around the world. In our case though, this might need to be done sooner than later because of the way sites like Facebook are the most popular with citizens.
Have you had a chance to use any state site? What do you think needs to be done to improve Zimbabwe’s government websites?