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Has the DTI been hit with a consultancy stick?

One look at the DTI`s Web site and it`s clear that this branch of the South African government needs to seriously reconsider its public image and its role in the country`s future economic development.
Read time 3min 20sec

One of the most notable differences between business in SA and the UK is the great disparity in the approach either government`s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) takes in serving the information required by business, consumers, employees, inward investors, potential exporters and of course, the media.

I spend quite a lot of time on the Web sites of the DTI ZA and the DTI UK, and every instance of switching over from one to the other and back again reinforces the perception that the South African government needs to seriously reconsider its public image as well as its roadmap for future economic development.

The difference is damningly self-evident. The DTI UK Web site very clearly differentiates its content; it allows users to immediately jump to the information most relevant to them, and to facilitate this, it`s organised information important to business owners, to employees and consumers.

The DTI ZA site, though it looks clean and well-presented, actually feels more like an extranet than an Internet presence.

Basheera Khan, editor, ITWales.com

It also very clearly presents industries in which it is pushing development (this content is regularly rotated so that all its efforts receive their time in the spotlight). It provides the latest news from the DTI, and allows access - from the front page - to all press releases, ministerial speeches, regulatory guidance and other DTI resources.

The DTI ZA site, though it looks clean and well-presented, actually feels more like an extranet than an Internet presence. Too much emphasis is placed on news (bet you thought you`d never hear a journalist say that!), while all the other useful information is buried about three levels deep, and even then, you`re hard pressed to find it without skipping to the site map. The information is there if you`re willing to look for it, but it`s not very intuitive, and the language employed by the site is somewhat distressing.

From the outset, the user is told that "the DTI has become an outwardly-focused, customer-centric organisation", and that it has "streamlined ... for better co-ordination and service delivery". There follows more meaningless corporate waffle which, though it is the bane of every copywriter worth their salt, seems to make someone happy. And then, in one of the most patronising displays I have yet seen, the welcome note claims the new look Web site seeks to establish a 24/7/365 connection to the South African economy - and then proceeds to spell out the meaning of that much over-used phrase.

All in all, it looks like someone in the DTI was hit over the head with an overpriced and largely useless consultancy stick. The buzzword-heavy, over-generalised mission statement serves only to make the DTI look clueless and easily fooled. I`m sure that it isn`t - but if I were an investor seeking to find out what the DTI ZA can do for me, I`d be somewhat negatively prejudiced at the end of reading that welcome note. And as an employee and a consumer, it leaves me feeling very frustrated indeed.

Clearly, what`s needed is someone close to the coalface to have a look at the site, and consider whether the information presented really does justice to his work - and where it doesn`t, to present just the facts, not the bumpf. Perhaps I`m stating the obvious, but the DTI`s work is of crucial importance to the country`s economic future, and it seems that in this case at least, SA has been forced one step back while other players advance with eyes wide open.

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