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Websites That Drive Development

Web sites should be seen to serve their intended purpose. In many developing countries, traditional information sources have failed to provide adequate information that people can use in their day to day lives.

While there are many web sites that are being created from within those countries, a majority of these locally generated web sites have only gone as far as establishing the Internet presence of the organisation publishing the site and those web sites that should be used to bridge information gaps in the areas of health, education, agriculture, science and technology are still thin on the ground.

Web sites promoting tourism, investment, the arts and culture are many compared to those web sites that should be providing information that can be used in many development activities.

There are few locally generated web sites that are specifically built for the ordinary members of the public living in developing settings.

This is gradually changing however as local people and organisations are realising that ordinary people are not benefiting from these technologies that are driving change in many Western based organisations.

While access to the Internet is being widened to reach out to people at grassroots level in those settings, equal attempts should be made to produce web sites that when the access issues are solved will consequently make these new technologies meaningful and useful in those settings that have to grapple with other urgent development problems like the need for better shelter, better health and better nutrition.

Quality Web Content for Use in a Developing Setting

The following are some key characteristics of that content that local people will find meaningful in their lives and that we hope you and your organisation will seek to produce after going through this tutorial:

The content needs should be expressed by the intended community of users.

  • It should reflect their culture and socio-economic circumstances.
  • It should be in a language that they can easily understand – preferably in their local languages.
  • If the content has come from other external sources, it should be adapted to suit local purposes.

Involving the Community in Web Content Creation

There are a number of strategies that can be followed to improve the effectiveness of locally generated web sites:

It’s next to impossible to involve every potential user of a web site in the composition of the content aimed at people living in a particular country or people who have shared interests, but some input should be sought from them in the process of web development. Focus group meetings can be used to bring together representatives of the community of users for the web site who should form part of the web development team. An information needs assessment can be undertaken through asking the people to state them in written form – through a questionnaire or orally – through informal and formal interviews.

Local people need to be trained to be information literate i.e. understand the value of information and use that information to improve their well being.

Local people need to be trained in the formulation of the content and produce it for the web or other delivery channels like radio, TV and mobile phones.

EContent creation is now a priority area that needs to be addressed in the democratisation of the Internet. It is that simple – traditional information service providers should first develop a liking for the web sites and allocate funds to create, update and widen access to these sites.