Government’s DigiTech ‘app store’ undergoes facelift

The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies’ (DCDT’s) self-proclaimed government “app store”, DigiTech, has undergone a redesign at the cost of R743 645.95.

This emerged in a Parliamentary response to Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Dianne Kohler Barnard’s question about the reasons, progress and cost of the platform’s redesign.

The question was brought to incumbent minister Mondli Gungubele, following last year’s assertions by former communications and digital technologies ministerKhumbudzo Ntshavheni that theDigiTech website was being redesigned.

In the written reply, Gungubele says the fact that the DigiTech site “did not meet DCDT specifications” prompted its redesign.

He also indicates the redesigned platform is now live, having concluded the process on 30 March.

“The security of the new DigiTech site has been enhanced and the new design has been implemented,” says the minister, explaining new features and improvements are included in the redesign.

Officially unveiled in May last year, by then-ministerNtshavheni, the DCDT-supported site was described as a platform for digital products/applications developed by SMMEs in SA.

According to the department, its purpose is to collect data about digital products developed in South Africa with an aim of supporting the products’ technology enablement, and promote and expand their adoption and use.

Through DigiTech, the DCDT said it sought to promote South African-developed digital products in other markets, while facilitating partnerships with other countries on co-promotion of local technologies.

The platform serves as a digital distribution service developed, maintained and operated by the South African government, stated the communications ministry.

At the time, Ntshavheni went as far as saying the platform is going to be Africa’s first “app store”, made by the South African government, available not only to applications in the country but applications across the region.

She added the platform was an effort to make sure government is the first consumer for those that are innovating their own products and digital applications.

However, its launch raised eyebrows, with reports stating it runs on outdated software, has security flaws and is downright terrible.

DA MP Solly Malatsi last year also criticised the platform, saying it looked like a “Grade Eight IT project”.

Malatsi further noted it was of extremely low quality. “What also really boggles the mind, is that the hit Netlflix Show ‘Stranger Things’ appears as one of the apps on the marketplace page.

“There are no links to download the app, or any additional information provided about the apps. One must click through to the YouTube version of the app and hope to find a link to the website of the developer there.

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

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