By Henry Lubang-Musoke
By far, it is shocking when one takes a quick look at the professionalism and quality of Web designs that come from Website Designing companies and gurus from Uganda. It’s very obvious to see that this field is still young and immature. The quality of websites for top notch government entities alone can leave one wondering. Just take a look at many of the Government owned websites with an extension .go.ug (go.ug is an extension that stands for Government of Uganda), you will be left in shock. Our very own Government website (www.government.go.ug) will leave one mouth-opened on how un-serious the IT sector in Uganda is. Does the Ministry of ICT even care? You would expect that this is the website that represents the Government, our very own, Government of Uganda. But shock will capture the unawareness of you, once you visit any of these sites: Bravo to the effort of design! Shame on the level of web development technology applied to high profile sites like these. The platform used alone (Drupal, an open source CMS – Open source means it is freely used and applied by anyone, can be manipulated as desired, as long as its copyright is maintained) will leave one wondering on the level of security these websites have. Give me a day or two, and I will have blown such a site’s FrontPage with my own data – and one wonders when big Government body sites have to shut down due to hacking! This is way too easy for a hacker to get into it and alter the site Home page or any other area of such a site, especially with an un-updated, Old content Management System. There is much to fear.
The information one finds on these high profile websites makes one wonder what the guys in IT for the different government bodies are paid to do. On many of these websites, you will find obsolete data with a zillion broken links to many of the site pages. What are we up to? Do we even know of what Search Engine Marketing and/or optimization is, because believe me or not, if it were a .com and not for the extension .go.ug, not any of these sites would have been seen in the top search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. A stunning impression is that it is as if one got a single design on one site URL, copied it, and pasted it on all the other government URLs. This is because you will find that almost 95% of all government site designs are on two platforms: Joomla and Drupal. It is far shocking to know that Millions of shillings are spent to acquire such low profile decrepit site developments and designs. And yet alone, who told these dwarnzies that these are the best Open source Content Management Systems (CMS) nowadays? Bring on your Joomla and Drupal, and I shall disprove you with my WordPress CMS! Totally loved by all search engines, relatively less security risky, easily updated, maintained and produces very clean Java, PHP, HTML and even HTML5 code at the Front end, something Google and the rest love!
Thumbs up for the CMS platform choice to some of the developers to sites like the Ministry of Health Website Portal (health.go.ug/); but this design is relatively unappealing as compared to a similar platform design like Visible Werks Inc (http://www.visiblewerks.com) used! We ought to recognize that Websites are an Image of a body or organization. We need to take a bigger caution while planning for their online appearance.
When it gets to web hosting and domain provision, it is shocking on the kind of services that our very own local firms offer! Why should web hosting be very expensive in Uganda? And yet when you make a survey, you find that we hardly have any web hosting and domain provision company with a Local Server here. Almost all service providers do sub-rent from huge companies in the USA, UK and ASIA at VERY cheap prices. A friend of mine told me that even in this day and age; people still charge an annual price of up to $700 for a single website host with low traffic and monthly bandwidth. For real? Even acquiring a local .ug doman is 100% more expensive than our East African counterparts Kenya and Tanzania. Whereas a .co.ug costs nearly $50 in Uganda, a similar .co.ke costs a surprising $25 in Kenya!! It is high time the Ministry of ICT did a NORMAL market survey and relieved our innocent Ugandans of the aroma of ignorance that disgusts us each day, all around the nation! A company with a monthly bandwidth traffic of less than 1GB per month, and has web data of less than 1.5GB, CANNOT in any way pay prices above $150 (UGX 390,000) per year in Website Hosting fees. Our very own Visible Werks Ltd does offers this service cheaply at only $50. Why should others be Very expensive?
I feel it is high time Ugandans embraced technology. The internet is very fast paced, and I really think we need to embrace it at its pace, otherwise we shall continue being kicked out. I have developed Websites for companies in the USA, UK and Asia, and I see that there is still a lot to learn when it comes to our local market. I prefer working with counterparts in India and Philippines because they aren’t lazy. Our very own Website Developer Gurus here in the country can tell you that a website will take 4 weeks to complete, yet we (My team from Asia) can do that in 3 working days ONLY. This clearly shows how comfortably Uganda’s website development gurus still slumber!
Let us all, who belong to this field of concern, the Website design and development in our country Uganda; wake up and embrace the New technologies that lie ahead of us. This is our country, Our Image, Our Life, Our people and Our Technology. Embrace it now! For God and my Country!
The Writer is a Web Developer and the Executive Director of VisibleWerks Ltd, a company that bases out from four countries: Australia, India, Philippines and Uganda. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org for concerns and queries.