The news that the Cambodian government’s official Internet portal was named one of the 12 worst government-run websites in the world by InformationWeek magazine on Wednesday surely belongs at the top of the site’s news ticker, which has not been updated since last year.
InformationWeek, a magazine published in California, wrote that the government had received this distinction for creating a site–cambodia.gov.kh–that the magazine described as having “poorly spaced and located text, article text rather than headlines acting as links, and bad use of white space.”
Many of the links on the homepage are broken, pointing to websites that either do not exist or have changed their web addresses.
Officials from the National Information Communications Technology Development Authority, which constructed the site, said yesterday that they have no plans to further develop the government portal.
“The site has just not been updated, because the man responsible took an IT job at the Khmer Rouge tribunal,” said NiDA deputy secretary-general Dip Sopheap.
Mr Sopheap said that although NiDA, which was established by Royal decree in 2000, has helped to construct many government websites but that the ministries themselves are responsible for the developing and updating those sites.
“The reason Prime Minister Hun Sen asked every government ministry to establish a web presence last year was to increase government transparency,” Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said yesterday.
Mr Siphan claimed that InformationWeek’s low opinion of the government’s home page was just a matter of rich countries looking down on poorer countries, and that the government has invested significantly in websites designed to inform the public.
The Tourism Ministry’s website automatically refers to a version formatted for mobile telephones. The Culture Ministry’s website bears a warning from the search engine Google that it relays malicious software.
“The Health Ministry still needs our help because their engineer doesn’t know about technical issues,” said Sochet Sun, Managing Director of Cam Info Services, which finished developing the Health Ministry’s website two months ago.
Although it was constructed recently, the website still contains no information more recent than June 2009.
Mr Sun said that his firm was paid to construct the Health Ministry site, while several other government sites rely predominantly on sponsors.
The sponsors listed on government sites range from international organizations like the UN and the Asian Development Bank, to local companies like Conical Hat, an IT firm that is credited with supporting the Tourism Ministry’s site despite having had no financial involvement in its creation, according to its managing director.
NiDA’s Webmaster, Mok Khemara, said yesterday that the design and structure of many ministries’ websites remained sub-par, and he lamented the lack of up-to-date content on many of the government’s sites
“Our policy is that if [government workers] don’t know how to do it we train them to make sites,” said Mr Khemara. “But right now no ministries are asking.”
Mr Khemara also said that a lack of online security has become an issue, because only two of the 27 ministries invited to host their websites on NiDA’s server accepted the invitation, meaning government sites have a diverse range of technical foundations.
Starting today, NiDA will hold a one-month IT training program for ministry workers in order to teach them how to code, manage online content and create more workable layouts.