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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Is WAG failing to support Welsh businesses?

Interesting post on the Smiling Under Buses blogspot yesterday, offering a translation of this post on the Cachu 360 blog. They are very unimpressed with the Welsh Assembly Government's on-line alternative to the promised Welsh Language daily newspaper, the first of a number of promises to be broken by Plaid Cymru Ministers.

It is not just the technical aspects and the look of the site that come in for criticism but also the superficial content, which in many people's minds fails to offer the sort of in-depth analysis and coverage they had come to expect from such a heavily subsidised venture. It has also been noted that just a week after its launch Golwg 360 has gone into beta, which could explain why the big launch party in the Senedd was cancelled last week.

The most disturbing aspect of this saga however is the allegation in the post that the site may have been designed and put together in India. We are told: "There is an obvious link between the Golwg 360 website and a company called IndInfoTech from Hyderabad, India, which “specialises” in developing websites. Was public money spent outside Wales – or out side Britain even? Was any money at all spent on the Golwg 360 (beta) website?"

The full reasoning behind this conclusion is set out on the Smiling Under Buses post concluding with the discovery that the domain name is registered with indinfotech.net, a company linked to indinfotech.com which is a general computing service company with its headquarters in Seattle and its technical team based in India. If this is true then £200,000 of public money is a lot of cash to spend abroad when it could have been used to commission a Welsh-based internet design company to set up the site.

The post ends with a series of questions, only the first four of which I have reproduced below:

To close, it must be asked – after seeing the “evidence” above:

1. Was the public money spent on Golwg 360 go to Seattle and India?
2. Why was the majority of the development done outside Wales, when the development work would have been incredibly valuable to the Welsh on-line community in Wales - Golwg 360 (beta) precise audience?
3. Has Golwg made a mistake by moving from publishing in print to on-line publishing?
4. Does the public deserve better, considering all the public money given to a private company?

These may well be questions that are worth asking of the Minister after the half-term recess.

I have already sent some questions to the minister and the Welsh Books Council (of course working in the private sector I had no idea you are currently on recess. How naive!).

Some of the questions I asked include asking why Golwg won the grant even though they intended to spend no money on the website (which was the main point of their bid), instead relying on 'sponsorship'. Apparently Tinopolis couldn't actually afford this sponsorship which is probably why it was outsourced to a cheap and nasty Indian developer. They didn't spend £200,000 in India.. it's more likely to have been around £200 (which was the attraction for Tinopolis/ TV Everywhere).

Did Golwg even have a business plan that treated the website development as a critical component of the 3-year project?

Why did Golwg win the grant when they have no track record of developing successful websites (neither does their website 'consultant' Iolo Jones)?

As it stands, the website currently breaks many fundamental web design rules and is not compliant with the Disability Discrimination Acts 1995/2005.

I have created an RSS feed for the website which at least fulfills one of the basic requirements of a news website, but the website needs to be scrapped and re-developed by a professional agency.
yeah, there is tremendous talent in Wales, and in this time of recession a local business would really benefit from a kickstart like that (it's not just the money they get paid, its the exposure). Was it even put out to tender to Welsh companies? Or was the Indian contract signed before they even got funding?

Questions need to be asked in the Senedd, definitely. Even if you have to drag the Golwg people in before a scrutiny committee.
This is an issue that should have been addressed years ago and I have regularly blogged on the fact that non-Welsh firms seem to be preferred by a range of public sector organisations when it comes to the supply of goods and services.

The excuse by the procurers is that there has to be a level playing field because of European rule. However, there is little account taken, in the assessments of tenders, of the sustainable benefits of buying locally or creating/maintaining local jobs through the contract.

If, for example, 20 per cent of the tender was assessed against this issue, then it would give small local firms a better chance of competing against larger non-welsh firms. It would also ensure that those large firms would have to up their quality game to win any contracts.

Despite the usual rhetoric, the Assembly Government has not taken this issue seriously enough, certainly not seriously enough to make a real difference. There is also little real data available on exactly how much of the estimated £5 billion spent by the public sector on goods and services goes outside of Wales. Perhaps questions should be asked…..
If you spend a lot of money on necessary IT abroad because it's cheaper then that means Wales has saved money doesn't it? It's cost the taxpayer less.
That depends David on whether a proper tender process has been followed, whether local companies have been invited to bid or have been excluded due to the rules and whether the overseas bid is value for money. There is also a quality test here, which the current site seems to have failed.
Take your point about the quality test Peter but of course nobody's suggesting Indian-developed software is inherently inferior - unless perhaps Dafydd is, whith his talk of 'cheap and nasty' - and the WAG has a chequered history when it comes to abiding by the DDA. And according to the W3C feed validator, Dafydd's RSS feed isn't valid.

Most people would welcome a drop in price for a necessary purchase. Then the money saved can be somewhere else it's needed - it doesn't vanish, does it.
That is why I am proposing to ask questions. The consensus appears to be that the Golwg 360 site is of poor quality. I would have thought that DDA adherence would be an essential part of any tender process irrespective of WAG's chequered history on this.
The Golwg site's simply a Wordpress blog. There are a few validation errors with it and some DDA issues but they're not hugely bad.

How much did it cost? It's WP and uses a free theme:


...don't tell me someone's gone and spent a fortune on this...?
Software developed in India is not necessarily inferior or superior but this particular site is shockingly bad as any decent developer will tell you. It is the Indian company that's poor not the fact that it's in India.

Although outsourcing a website to India because it's 'cheap' without enforcing a strict technical spec, basic web standards and QA shows extremely poor judgement. It also means there is no accountability when things go wrong (as in this case).

My RSS feed is valid XML but does not validate strictly with the RSS 'standards'. Neither does the BBC's feed or many other sites. The point is - it works. It was also developed in a few hours rather than the year that Golwg had.

I have helped develop a few websites for the Assembly and other public bodies. All strived to comply with the DDA and WAI standards - it's not rocket science! The Golwg site doesn't even bother.
My mistake, presumably this:


is the website being discussed
You appear to be on the wrong site, David. The Golwg 'development' blog is here http://www.golwg.com/2/

The new website is here http://golwg360.com/UI/Users/HomeView.aspx
Dafydd - yes, I see now.

Very quickly on the WAG - they weren't compliant for a long time abnd when I once suggested they offer RSS feeds I was told it was a new technology only of interest to very few people and they weren't going to do it...

This Golwg site's never going to pass any validation if it's raw .aspx, as it it. The code looks horrible. Could have done something better with an openSource CMS like Drupal (the Onion runs on Drupal, after all, so it could easily handle it).

I'm sure it isn't good value for money....
The people at Golwg may be a bunch of tight fisted 'cardis' but this new site really takes the prize for cheap and nasty. Questions need to be asked here.
It beggars belief that they have gone outside of Wales for this - the cock up of the visitwales website (£2m+) that went to Australia springs to mind. It seems that these people outsource by putting a pin in Wales and then stretch a rubber band as far as it will go around a globe and then choose to give the business to a firm at the opposite side of the planet. If there were a web development outfit run by multi-limbed goggle eyed aliens on Mars they would have a better shot at this.Incredible.
Was this job put out for tender on sell to wales?
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