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Thursday, January 06, 2011

The web infrastructure of the PA government is a joke

Even though PA prime minister Salam Fayyad has been telling every Western reporter that he is building the infrastructure for a state in the Palestinian Authority, a look at the websites of the PA government shows a mess that might reflect the reality more than any official statements.

The sites are filled with broken links, incomplete pages, and many have not been updated in years. The quality of the websites looks more like how the web looked in 1996 than 2011.

Here is a survey of the PA web pages I could find:

The State Information Service page, which is supposed to be the main portal, is not even up. This made it a bit difficult to find the other pages.

The Ministry of Planning homepage returns an error code.

The Ministry of Education site is a bit better, last updated in May of 2010. It includes, of course, a section on how "occupation" is affecting education.

The Prime Minister's Office site isn't terrible and is reasonably up to date, although it points to a webmail page that does not have a trusted certificate for its encryption.

The Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs site has not been updated since 2001.

The Ministry of Finance page is only a couple of weeks out of date. For some reason it includes a collection of "Nakba" photos, as well as photos of places like Haifa.

The Ministry of the National Economy (English) is a horrendous site , barely updated ever (some news items from 2004 and 2009), filled with broken links. Its Arabic site is a little better, and has been updated more recently, but has the same broken links.

The National Plan of Action for Palestinian Children still refers to President Yasir Arafat. It is pretty much a shell of a site, set up once a long time ago and long forgotten.

The Palestinian Legislative Council's homepage is filled with photos of their meetings - in the same conference room, around the same table, from the same camera angle. Wow.

The Commission of Human Rights page has not been updated since 2004.

The Ministry of Environmental Affairs starts with an awful Flash animation, and then shows pretty much nothing. It does not appear to have been updated since 2001. Not surprisingly, two of its three publications blame Israel for every environmental issue.

Perhaps the most symbolic of the broken pages is the government website dedicated to a European/Mediterranean Information Society initiative, to connect the PA to other countries in a large network. That page has not been updated since 2001.

This entire mess seems to be the responsibility of the Government Computer Center, which sets up websites for other government organizations.

It may not be a coincidence that the most up-to-date sites - the Prime Minister, Economy and Finance - are all sites that are of special interest to Prime Minister Fayyad. While this is hardly evidence, it gives the impression that the entire PA infrastructure is a shell, intended to fool the West into thinking that there is something solid there when it is completely rotten underneath. What journalist is going to bother to spend the half hour it takes to find this mess?

Keep in mind that there are literally billions of dollars being poured into building an infrastructure for the PA. Most Palestinian Arabs do have connections to the Internet so there is a possibility for a lot of value - and money savings - in an effective Web presence. There is no evidence that any effort is being put into the cyber-infrastructure of the PA.

If the state-building that is supposedly being done in the Palestinian Authority is being reflected in their websites, then there won't be a Palestinian Arab state for a very, very long time.