South Africa’s Digitech website, which cost R744,000, is a complete mess

The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies’ (DCDT’s) Digitech website appears to have received a slight visual update, but little else has been done to improve it.

Some of the site’s visual elements have changed colour to more closely resemble the South African government’s colour scheme. However, the website is still sluggish and fraught with errors.

Regarding design, the website’s banners have changed to green, as featured on the South African government’s coat of arms, while certain headings have changed to an orange colour similar to that of the coat of arms’ crown.

The Digitech “digital products portal” still frequently shows iconless listings and numerous error messages. Some of these are shown below.

Moreover, the portal, which aims to promote locally developed digital products through its “marketplace”, still doesn’t provide any means of purchasing or downloading the products.

It doesn’t even include links to where you might access apps online or download them from the Google Play marketplace or Apple App Store.

These problems persist despite the DCDT spending R743,644.95 to redesign the portal.

MyBroadband asked the DCDT for an update on its Digitech website, but it had not responded by the time of publication.

The Digitech landing page has a new colour scheme.

Former communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni launched the Digitech website in 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,” she said.

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

Following its launch, former Democratic Alliance (DA) spokesperson on telecommunications and digital technologies Solly Malatsi ripped into the project, saying it looked like a high schooler could have developed it.

He highlighted several aspects the platform lacks, including download links and sufficient information about the digital products.

Instead, it had no download or app store links and very short product descriptions, if any.

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

He said the website doesn’t fulfil the function of an app store but rather is just 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,” Malatsi said.

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

The “digital products portal” still features iconless listings, no download links, and little information about each product.

In May 2023, communications minister Mondli Gungubele revealed that his department had spent R743,644.95 redesigning the store, prompting more backlash from DA members.

Gungubele revealed the amount in response to parliamentary questions from DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard. She had asked for details about the redesign and the associated costs.

“The old Digitech website did not meet DCDT specifications,” the minister said.

Gungubele said his department had informed him the redesigned site launched on 30 March 2023.

“The security of the new Digitech site has been enhanced, and new design has been implemented,” he added.

This is one of the many errors experienced when navigating the Digitech website.

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South Africa’s Digitech website, which cost R744,000, is a complete mess