Electronic store

The South African government has just launched an app store. It’s awful.

The DigiTech logo, with an example ID number disclosed in its database.

Review

  • The South African government has launched a supposed app store it is very happy with called DigiTech.
  • It’s not an app store, and that’s terrible.
  • It has also, on occasion, leaked the private information of its developer users.
  • For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

The South African government this week launched what it billed as its own app store, with the promise of bringing “unparalleled and unparalleled” opportunities to the whole country, in the words of Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, the Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies. .

Called DigiTech, the new platform represents “incredible work,” said Ntshavheni.

It is, in fact, terrible in every way and just a little dangerous for what seem to be its primary users, local app developers.

Ntshavheni told parliament this week that DigiTech “allows users to browse and download apps developed on all operating systems.” It’s not. Its “marketplace” is simply a collection of two dozen app promo videos, embedded from YouTube in such a way that only half of each video can be seen.

App users don’t have to do anything on the website other than watch the left half of a video. If they want to learn more about a certain app, the only way to do so is to click on the YouTube version of each video and there, hopefully, find a link to a developer’s website.

Digitech

App developers are encouraged to register, with the promise that their “business and products [sic] goes global in seconds.” But without any information on the DigiTech site itself, they don’t benefit that much from the extra Google juice that could be obtained from a link on the government site.

However, these developers have the option of potentially disclosing their online ID numbers.

While Ntshavheni told parliament that the site acts as an app store and the website itself promises to increase distribution, its only real function appears to be to create a database of locally developed apps.

These developers will then be expected to be first in line for government money.

“We are currently studying how the current SITA [State Information Technology Agency] and supply chain management regulations can be used to ensure that the government is the primary consumer of South African-made systems and applications, especially those registered on the DigiTech platform,” said The Minister.

To create this database, the developers have to fill out a form which, in keeping with the design and feel of the site, is awful.

The DigiTech registration form

The short registration form asks developers if they understand the “Foreign Trade Exchange Act” – a law that exists – and how many users they have, where the drop-down options cap at “21 or more”. It also asks for the developer ID number.

In two cases, Business Insider South Africa found these leaked ID numbers on another government website, which reproduced completed registration forms. They remain easily accessible thanks to third-party caching.

The government is committed to developing DigiTech into a regional hub, and has also linked it to government efforts around artificial intelligence and the fourth industrial revolution (4IR).

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