In the New Media course we’ve looked at the makings of an effective and interactive website. So I thought it would be interesting to look at websites in South Africa in an effort to see just how effective they are in catering for the promotion of e-democracy and the enabling of e-political activity.
I want to analyse the South African national government’s site to see just how effective it really is
In making judgments on how effective and interactive sites are, we look for four major factors. APIs Designs, a company that helps web designers set up good websites, and Web Reference speaks at length about content, design, site organisation, website promotion and lastly, content sharing.
With this in mind, I take a deeper look at the South African national government’s web page; www.gov.za
The content one includes on their site has to be relevant , timely and credible. It has to be in accordance with the purpose of one’s site. So if my web page is concerned with cyberdemocracy all my content has to relate to that topic.
The South African government’s web page has relevant information that is clearly labeled under ‘services for people’, ‘events’, ‘key issues’ ect. Timely information on the government’s Programme of Action and the World Asthma Day has been easily available.
The information has a great degree of credibility as it comes from the national government themselves. This however can be debated when one considers research into how much trust South African’s have in their government.
The design of any website needs to be eye catching and engage the user. It also needs to reflect the identity of the company, or in this case, government. The design of government’s website is not the most eye catching of sites but does reflect the nature of government. The look of the site brings across a serious and formal tone.
It could be argued that in order to get more political involvement from the youth, the site could be designed in a more engaging manner. The Glocal Youth Parliament has a very youthful design with greens and oranges and images and uses graphics. However, I would rather have the more formal design for the national government’s website.
For a user to easily navigate a site, it needs to be clearly organised and as user friendly as possible. http://www.gov.za has, as its homepage, a list of different avenues that the user can pursue under two main categories; services and information.
There is also a different section offering information on the state of the nation address, Imbizo Week, South Africa 2010 and the Programme of Action campaign. Navigating the site is fairly simple to do.
Given that 41% of users (according to eMarketer statistics) find a site through search engines, it is important for web developers to effectively promote their site. To see how well the governments site was optimised for search engines I searched for a number of key words.
I searched ‘batho pele’, ‘labour issues’, ‘government’, ‘Eastern Cape’ and ‘national budget’. Links to the government website, such as www. info.gov.za , appeared first or second in the list of results Google had generated. When searching for President Thabo Mbeki’s name however, the government’s web page was fifth on the list of results.
Another integral part of the Internet is the fact that users are able to share and often generate information. Comment boxes, subscription options, adding to favourites and opportunities to email information to friends are seen by many as being of pivotal importance in information sharing.
The South African government’s sites gives users contact information for its various departments. However, there is no space, online, for users to leave a comment or communicate with their leaders. This does not facilitate the two way communication that is necessary for edemocracy.
One can subscribe to various newsletters online aiding in getting information out to the citizens. However, it fails in getting the views and concerns of the citizens to their government.
The site needs to improve their content sharing capabilities. The design needs to be more engaging but still maintain a formal and globally respectable feel and look. It is a well organised and informative site.