Diaspora PortalMine is really simple, to keep them honest and accountable! On October 29, 2014, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs unveiled the long awaited web-portal for the diaspora.Actually the actual announcement of the portal was made a week or so ago by the Director of Diaspora Affairs H.E. Ambassador Zachary Muburi- Muita on Facebook and other social outlets. To his credit Ambassador Muburi-Muita has clearly done a better job in moving the needle in engaging the Diaspora since his appointment earlier in the year relatively speaking, of course more, plenty more needs to be done and must be seen to be done. Having said that, it is also imperative that we address weaknesses when we see them and in Kenya’s case, God knows there are tons of them. In this instance, the unveiling of the web-portal for Diaspora reminds me so much of President’s Barack Obama’s unveiling of the US government’s web portal for medical insurance enrolment last year, it was a dud – now only outdone by Kenya. Of course the US quickly responded to the public criticism and quickly moved to fix the problem but as one of those with first-hand experience to Kenya’s responsiveness, I am not holding my breath about Kenya’s case though. Those of us who witnessed the go up and the ensuing blowout of against poorly designed and rolled out platform know very well that such rollouts can have dire consequences if done incorrectly. I will reserve my judgment about Kenya’s portal for now and invite you to actually go to the website and take a look for yourself, Folks, Nairobi could use lots of  help in understanding the Diaspora and providing honest and real solutions that advance all of our common welfare, I don’t think we are anywhere that point going by this website. This was supposed to be the perfect opportunity for the government to showcase its skillsets, sincerity and seriousness with which the Diaspora matters to the country, a well thought out and well-designed website platform that inspires the Diaspora; one that justifies the fanfare with which Kenya unveiled the portal- it should have also justified the wait and hype but I am not sure this product even closely matches that and it is unfortunate- it does not. Just take a closer look at the website, objectively that is, and share with us what you think are its deficiencies and what you would do differently if you were developing it.
Since its publication, the most complaints I have heard of are that it is not user friendly and it gets “stuck” when certain information is provided such as “country” on the dropdown menu. Personally, I find several things wrong with it not the least of which are that it is INSECURE! Other concerns include the aesthetics of the website, the web address itself, the communication of the site, I mean it doesn’t strike me particularly as a website that a government would set up for the purposes of reaching out to one of its most important constituency and economic partners.
The portal is NOT secure! Big problem. I don’t know why it has on it or even who owns the domain. Government domains are supposed to be clearly marked and identified as government sites, or something like that, this one appears to be an insecure privately owned domain. Then, it requires the Diaspora to “register” themselves by providing personal identifying information such as names and passport numbers and so on and so forth before you can even access the site itself! In other words the website is not encrypted nor does it even provide any kind of assurances that the information sought would not compromised or used for any other purposes but identification only. A secure website starts with an https: as part of its IP protocol, this doesn’t and what it means is that once you provide your information, it is fair game for scammers, frauds and thieves who will then use access it and ruin your life. In the United States, Identity theft is the number one cyberspace crime and is usually accomplished via unsecure sites and often crooks hacking into even secure sites. So when Kenya’s government unveils a website that on its face is clearly, clearly vulnerable in all possible ways, it just makes me wonder exactly how serious are these folks not only with us directly but also in protecting our privacy. Second, the portal does not give any premise or comfort to a would be registrant what purposes the information is for? Why do they need our passport numbers?  And if it is because it is a valid identifying document, why wouldn’t they disclose that and ensure the site is secure first before asking for it or are they not aware of the cybercrimes out here in the real world? It hasn’t been so long ago that crooks hacked and defaced the Kenya Police website and posted pornographic materials on it, so why would we think our information wouldn’t be compromised? So I say to the Ministry, please go back to the drawing board on this.
In addition to the insecurity outlined above, the site is disorganized, when you click on it, the first message is,“We Welcome All Kenyans to the Diaspora Portal System. Registering with us will aid informing you on the development in our country, Kenya.” I kid you not, do we in the Diaspora really need a web portal to inform us about the development in Kenya as a priority in this day and age of abundant information from multiple sources? My point is, even something as straight forward as  messaging simply misses it, in my view, the Diaspora is not interested in this kind of information as a service from its government, no- this is not our priority at all and even if it were, the information is already readily available in this information age and we do not need a Diaspora web portal designed by the government for that purpose, NO! The Diaspora is more interested in policy announcements, points of contacts for various disparate interests, engagement partners, a purpose page, an events page, a Services page, a Discussion Forum and so on and so forth and yet NONE of these fundamental things are on the site. No introductions, no abstracts, no message, no organization, Nothing. It simply says; IN DISTRESS? OPPORTUNITIES and REGISTER- That is it!!! What is more, to access any one of these menus, you actually must register first-and yes give your passport number as part of the registration, I think it is backwards. The government should first provide full information and disclosures, explain clearly and in plain sight the purpose of the portal, how to use/ navigate the site itself, where and how to find information through a dropdown menu and FAQ so folks can make informed decisions before providing any information much less passport numbers. In this and many regards, for the fanfare this site has been accorded- I don’t this it fits the bill.
I am not a website guru, I am an absolute amateur when it comes to websites but even I built one for my business by myself, very rudimentary I may add as you can see but I think I did a better job without anywhere near the resources at the government’s disposal, judge for yourself; look at the sites side by side, i.e. and compare/contrast with . The point is that the government could have done a much better job if it really wanted to unless they are not serious enough about the Diaspora, this website is too amateurish, not up to par at all if you ask me. This is partly the consequences of failure to consult or collaborate with the Diaspora as the end user, which, unfortunately, is emblematic of the disconnect between the state and the Diaspora so far. And it is not for lack of trying on our part,  I know the state means well, that is not the point- my point is that good intentions must also be reflected in actions and outcomes. I think a simple step in the process such as beta testing the website with the Diaspora would have yielded a much more acceptable website than what we see now.
For starters, look at the site; is it inspiring? Is the look really representative of the Diaspora or is this more of someone sitting in Nairobi’s impression of what the Kenyan Diaspora is like? Do you get my drift?  A Diaspora website should reflect the faces and ideals of the Diaspora, the faces of a mosaic of Kenyan Diaspora and a background of Kenya if you ask me but instead the site depicts half-clothed children in the tundra and I don’t know if that is supposed to represent the Diaspora or whether it is a subliminal message of how the government actually sees us, the point is I wouldn’t use such images on a Diaspora website. The optics just send the wrong message.
Of the three pages, there is literary no content to speak of. Two pages are fill-in forms and the other is a link page, even I, a complete novice can see that. This is underwhelming to say the least. I mean let’s be serious folks, the Deputy President and Cabinet Secretary took part of the unveiling, do we want to take this at face value as the best product that warrants the presence of the Deputy President and Cabinet Secretary? What happened to standards and quality? This is the Diaspora web portal? I wouldn’t want to pile on this folks but I also can’t defend mediocrity or stand by and watch as our collective intelligence is impugned,. No!
Nairobi, DO BETTER! Please.
By David ochwangi

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