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SA election body opens website to open source users

By   |  January 19, 2009

The South African Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has made good on its promise to open up its website to free software users.

With just three weeks to go to the final voter registration date for this year’s national elections the IEC has removed the error messages that greeted non-Microsoft users and allowed them access to the full site.

Previously the IEC website greeted users of alternatives browsers such as Firefox and Chrome with an error message:

“Our server detected that you are using a browser or operating system (e.g. Netscape, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome etc.) which is currently incompatible with our website. The current website is only compatible with Microsoft Internet Explorer V4 (and upward) on the Windows operating system.”

In November last year IEC chief information officer, Libisi Maphanga, said that the organisation planned to spend R3 million to fix the website which was inaccessible to computer users not using Microsoft Windows or Internet Explorer.

Maphanga said that the organisation, which oversees elections in the country, would spend R3 million to make its website accessible to all Internet users.

Today the IEC website is available to all users and the error message that previously infuriated users has been removed.

The website is now functioning and, despite occasional error messages, does allow citizens to check their registration status online. The site also contains a number of election guides to assist citizens.

Maphanga said previously that the IEC restricted access to the website to ensure that non-Microsoft users were not given the wrong information. This however frustrated many users, some of which filed a complaint with the human rights commission. Users argued that the South African government had an open source software policy and that denying citizens access to the website using their own choice of browser was a violation of human rights.

Comments

11 Responses to “SA election body opens website to open source users”

  1. Ronald
    January 19th, 2009 @ 10:25 am

    This is good news both for the democratic process in SA and the response from the IEC. It shows that the people have good representation and influence/authority. Also, I laud the IEC in their response–I tested the site and it looks good.

    On the weekend I performed 2 online AV scans–one from Symantec and the other from Eset. Guess what browser is required? You guessed right!!

  2. Karl Fischer
    January 19th, 2009 @ 10:44 am

    This is the best news of the YEAR … so far!

  3. Raoul
    January 19th, 2009 @ 1:05 pm

    Sorry, tell me, what exactly did they do? To me it looks like they just removed the browser checking mechanism.

  4. coda
    January 19th, 2009 @ 2:13 pm

    @Raoul: Yeah, I was thinking the same thing…

  5. F Wolff
    January 19th, 2009 @ 3:08 pm

    We have to be honest: they did fix it. Thank you for that.

    Shall we now lobby for them to fix the website for the 90% of the country which isn’t English?

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  7. Ian
    January 20th, 2009 @ 1:36 pm

    There seems to be this ongoing misunderstanding that it was just the browser checking mechanism that needed removing. It was more than that – the results were never properly accessible beforehand in anything other than Internet Explorer. This seems to be all fixed now, so well done to them for that, and well done to everyone who helped make it a reality.

  8. Alastair
    January 21st, 2009 @ 7:02 am

    @Ian

    I agree. I think that the issues are more complex than just a browser check or the need for a redesign. Which is not to say that for the money spent to date the site shouldn’t be a whole lot better.

    The other thing is that the R3 million was budgeted to “fix” the website that already existed. So if you consider the money spent on the original site, together with the R3 million the total cost of this site is significantly higher. :-)

  9. Ian
    January 20th, 2009 @ 8:06 pm

    The design is attracting some hefty criticism. Also see an alternate design whipped up in a day, for a little less than the original.

  10. IEC website now available to non-Microsoft users « Hblog.org
    January 21st, 2009 @ 5:28 pm

    […] 21, 2009 in blogging, causes, the open web | by Heather Ford Great news from Tectonic about the Independent Electoral Commission’s website now being open to non-IE users. Congrats […]

  11. rob allen
    January 27th, 2009 @ 9:01 am

    Thank god it’s finally open – now they just need to improve it (it still has a pre 2000 feel about it)

    Election registion weekend is coming up and it is important that South African’s make sure that they are registered and know where they are registered. We have a bit on this over at the Making Mzansi Better website

    One thing that people probably do not know is that you can check your registration status from you data enabled phone – Number 4 on the mzansi mobile links – http://m.mzansi.org.za/links.htm

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