Designing for the Web in Zambia

Friday, 17 July 2009

by Silumesii Maboshe

I am reflecting on some articles I wrote for Citizen Uganda and trying to see if they are still relevant to the current reality in Zambia:

  1. Opening Africa: Adopting Web Standards on the Continent
  2. Keep Your Hat On: A Look At Website Roles
  3. Ecommerce: When the Lights Go Out

In general, the arguements still hold.

Zambian Web Developers Are Still Designing Without Standards

There is a trend towards using Content Management Systems (CMSs) like Drupal, Joomla! or WordPress leaving standards implementation to the CMS developers. This is a lazy choice and the lack of understanding of valid markup shines through once the site is finally implemented regardless of the Content Management System.

Roles Are Still Misunderstood

The perception is that the Web Developer is the Network Administrator, the System Administrator, the Help Desk, the Hardware Technician and should take care of everything to do with technology. That is extremely ambitious! For the few that actually do a decent job, they are not compensated equal to their ability.

Infrastructure Failure

Failure is part of reality. However, I do not get the sense that Zambia learns from its failures. In mid-June this year, the entire country had no power for over twelve hours. Yesterday, all four DNS servers that point to google.co.zm failed. Do we implement the necessary redundancy to care of the failure of critical systems? Do we learn from these experiences?

A New Horizon

The adoption of mobile phone use in Zambia is astounding! Everyone has a cellphone. In some cases, it is cheaper to have two or more to prevent hefty cross-network calling charges.

The mobile device is setting itself to be a common denominator for connectivity in Zambia the way the email address has been in the West.

Are our developers ready to adopt standards and develop content, applications and services for mobile devices? Sadly, no.

The question then becomes, “Will our developers step up to the challenge?”. For Zambia’s sake, I sincerely hope so or (as we have already experienced) someone else will …