IEC Web site fixed

Audra Mahlong
By Audra Mahlong, senior journalist
Johannesburg, 20 Jan 2009

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has completed the promised updates to its Web site.

The updates follow last year's user complaints and subsequent promises by the electoral body to fix the problems. The IEC stated in November it would spend R3 million, over two months, to ensure problems are fixed in time for the next round of voter registrations on 7 and 8 February.

“The IEC has upgraded capacity to ensure the supporting infrastructure can take much more traffic simultaneously in terms of bandwidth and server processing power,” says Kate Bapela, chief communication officer for the IEC.

Additionally, the cross-browser compatibility enhancements went live yesterday.

Open standards

The Web site previously denied access to users of non-Microsoft browsers, such as Netscape, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome, as it was based on Microsoft's Internet Explorer system. Users first complained about the site's incompatibility in August.

A letter - co-signed by the State IT Agency, the Shuttleworth Foundation and government's OSS and Open Standards Working Group - was sent to the Human Rights Commission, complaining of “unequal treatment by [the] Independent Electoral Commission”. The missive also slated the electoral body for failing to comply with government's policy on free and open source software use.

During the voter registration weekend and in the week leading up to it in November, the IEC received over a million visitors to the Web site. The IEC stated that users were logging on for a variety of reasons, which included checking their registration status, checking the correct voting station for registrations, sending online queries, and accessing information online.

The Web site was unable to handle the surge in user numbers during the registration weekend and subsequently crashed. The IEC responded with a statement urging users to be patient and promising remedies for the problems experienced within two months.

Bapela says the IEC cannot speculate as to how many hits the Web site will receive in the period running up to the registration weekend. However, she adds that the millions of hits, which were registered in the week leading up to and including the last voter registration weekend, are an indication of the numbers that could be expected.

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