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Why Nigerian Government Websites Crash

It is very common in Nigeria to experience an issue whenever government has unveiled a popular initiative especially when the web is designed to anchor that program. The first thing that happens is that the website will crash on the opening day.

It is not opposition attack, as some may say, designed to prevent the good people of Nigeria to receive the dividend of democracy. Simply, it is poor engineering planning at work.

Most people have complained that the website for the federal job applications which the government unveiled few days ago has not worked. That is very common in the land.

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Site has been down since the recruitment notice was postd. I have been following it for days now.

The answer is simple: during contracting, government sees the websites tested before 5-10 people. Everything looks nice. But when the traffic comes, the site gives up. Practically, unless you understand the infrastructure involved in web hosting, there is no way the bureaucrat will know what is ahead. Think of it this way:

  • Contractor A has a proposal to host the site and wants to charge $100k for the duration of the initiative knowing that thousands of  users will be supported.
  • Contractor B asks for $20k for the same service, without taking into considerations the expected traffic.

Largely, on the existing structure of government tender system, Contractor B will win. The person delivers the site and is paid. Then initiative is launched and the site gives up on Day 1.

You know what happens? The government will call the contractor, and the contractor will then explain that government needs more capacity. How much? We need $150k. Because government is already embarrassed before the media and the citizens, it would do all necessary to get the site up. Upon payment, the site is up and running after the capacity is upgraded.

Unfortunately, that lesson is never taken into the next project. Government has just lost $70k in this project. We do not think beyond the immediate step, and that is very unfortunate.

For those looking for work, http://www.fedcivilservice.gov.ng will stabilize soon. The site is probably on JustHost which costs $60 per year. They will upgrade capacity soon. Check in the night as some of those sites are designed for maximum of sub-100 users at a time. So, in the night it may work. Nigeria needs a national Chief Information Officer. We can save money through technology with better planning.

Interestingly, the issues at play most times are beyond money, but a set of twisted minds who are more interested in what they can make at every turn in a contract. I have had experience with these creatures up there, and it might interest you to know that many of these sites were built by foreign contractors. As always, the contract sum is never the problem, but the 'sharing formula'. It's not a question of awarding to the guy with depth and  $100k proposal, but more about how much that is available to carry out the project, after all the unending 'settlements' on the way to Calvary have been made. The unfortunate thing is that we just term everything 'corruption', when poor thinking is the biggest danger in the land.

Interesting piece. The reality is that accross all sectors of government, the thinking is usually myopic and we never cared to or know how to plan beyond the NOW.

Until we start thinking beyond the NOW, we will keep experiencing repeated issues or challenges without ever learning from them

Yes Xtiano. It is not all corruption. It is a factor of lack of seeing beyond NOW as you noted. Francis, this is not really about corruption. It could be honest issues. But we need to learn.

Performance testing is very crucial for such platform...

Absolutely correct on performance testing. The challenge is how the govt will award another contract to do same since I am sure they do not have such capabilities in-house.