R 6.5million Durban 2010 website cost explained

The official Durban 2010 website was launched recently, providing visitors with information about the city’s preparations for the FIFA World Cup.  “The website is a source of up-to-date information with factual, easy-to-read content on subjects such as stadium construction, infrastructure development and transportation,” said Julie-May Ellingson, head of Durban’s Strategic Projects Unit.

The website however did not make headlines because of its relevance or new technologies used, but rather for its R 6.5million price tag which was widely criticized by the local IT community.  The Democratic Alliance also weighed in on the issue, saying that “using the specifications provided by the City Council, the website could not possibly have cost more than R250 000, and may well have cost less than half of that amount.”

“So what has happened to the other R6.25-million? Has the money been misappropriated by Ethekwini municipal officials, or was the Council simply duped out of over R5-million?” asked Marti Wenger, the DA’s Shadow Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

Adapt IT, the JSE listed IT company which is developing and managing the 2010 Durban website, has hit back saying that most of the critics simply don’t understand the scope of the full project.  Adapt IT CEO Sbu Shabalala explained that the project far exceeds a mere web portal development, and includes all facets of the Durban’s 2010 online presence including website development and management, content creation, translation into 5 different languages, SEO, ROI tracking and more.

The website is built on Microsoft’s Sharepoint platform, something which Adapt IT felt is the best route to follow to ensure the needed functionality and easy integration with current Ethekwini municipality systems. 

The Durban 2010 project itself is broken into three phases which will take 14 months to complete, using a team of 10 full time staff members under the guidance of Richard McLennan.  The full project will include the production on content (which includes website copy, audio, video, live streaming, scores and the like), translating the website in five different languages, a press release centre and a Durban Beach and 2010 Stadium photosynth.

The real costs

While the total cost of the project is R 6.5million, this cost includes aspects like software licensing, hosting and server management which is not strictly part of the Adapt IT budget.  Here the Ethekwini municipality worked with existing partners like Internet Solutions to serve their needs, something which AdaptIT does not have a direct say over.

The portal itself accounts for around R 4.3 million, broken down into R850 000 for the first phase which has been completed, R1,397,760 for the second phase which is in progress and R1,601,800 for the last phase.  AdaptIT also added a contingency amount of R451,200 in their budget, bringing their total cost to R4,300,760.

When looking at the first phase budget, Web Design accounts for 7 %, Sharepoint development for 13% and Web development and content management for 36%.  The compliment is made up by project management fees (21%), copyrighting service (5%), translation services (9%) and programme management (9%). The second and third phases differ from the first phase where Microsoft Technologies Development and Sharepoint development take a larger slice of the pie.

Is it too much?

The scope of the Durban 2010 web portal is significantly larger than simply developing and implementing a website using a content management system.  The purpose of the portal is not only to provide the city with a web presence for the 2010 World Cup, but rather to make it a high-end online marketing tool to assist Durban in getting as large a slice of the 2010 World Cup visitor market as possible.

The Ethekwini municipality clearly decided to invest heavily in its online presence for 2010, a decision which Shabalala is confident will mean a significant return on investment.  Shabalala further said that the Durban 2010 website will most likely be superior to those of all other 2010 host cities, something which will bode well for Durban both during the 2010 World Cup and as a showcase for the city for future purposes.

Apart from the potential underestimation of the scope of the Durban 2010 online project, the outcry over the R 6.5million price tag may well be linked to the fact that South Africans are not used to considerable spending on online properties.  Internationally it is not surprising when companies invest millions in a feature rich website, and it is usually well received by the online population.

This substantial investment by the Ethekwini municipality in their online presence for 2010 bodes well for the local Internet and IT community.  It signals a change in the attitude towards online investments and a heightened recognition of the importance of a strong Internet presence as opposed to days gone by when most of the budget would be invested in more traditional marketing means.

The Durban 2010 website in English

Durban 2010 website cost – too high or justified?

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R 6.5million Durban 2010 website cost explained