South Africa’s DigiTech “app store” looks like a Grade 8 IT project

Democratic Alliance spokesperson on telecommunications and digital technologies Solly Malatsi has ripped into government’s new DigiTech platform, saying it looks like a high schooler could have developed it.

Communications minister Khumbudzo Nthsavheni launched DigiTech on 17 May 2022 to celebrate World Telecommunications and Information Society Day.

“DigiTech serves as a digital distribution service developed, maintained, and operated by the South African government,” Nthsavheni said.

“The platform allows users to browse and download apps developed across operating systems.”

The DigiTech website bills the platform as a digital products portal of South Africa, supported by the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies.

Its purpose is to collect data about digital products developed in South Africa, and promote and expand their adoption and use.

“Through DigiTech, the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies seek to promote SA developed digital products in other markets whilst facilitating partnerships with other countries on co-promotion of local technologies,” it states.

When MyBroadband visited the DigiTech website, its “marketplace” offered nothing more than a grid of YouTube videos.

These videos were embedded poorly, showing only the left-side of the frame.

One of the YouTube videos was an 8-minute teaser of the new season of Stranger Things — a Stephen King-inspired coming-of-age science-fiction horror series on Netflix.

Additionally, the site does not use a secure connection (HTTPS) to transfer data, even for its registration and login forms.

DigiTech Marketplace screenshot (Click to enlarge)

Malatsi said the DA will be submitting Parliamentary questions to determine who the site’s developer is, how much they were paid, and how much the site’s maintenance will cost.

The DA also wants to know whether the department is satisfied with the quality of this website.

“There are no links to download the app or any additional information provided about the apps,” Malatsi stated.

“This falls woefully short of what the Department promised for this website, and indicates a serious lack of skill in its design and construction.”

Malatsi said the DigiTech website does not fulfil the function of an app store at all, and instead serves only as a database of locally developed apps — and not a good one at that.

“This project is ominously reminiscent of the Free State website scandal in 2013 when it transpired that the Free State government had spent R40m on its website,” he said.

“National Treasury eventually called for criminal charges to be laid against those involved in tenders awarded to development company that was awarded the tender for the site.”

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South Africa’s DigiTech “app store” looks like a Grade 8 IT project