Published On: Fri, Jun 14th, 2019

Websites for dummies

Hilbert HaarBy Hilbert Haar

Technology is wonderful. I can be anywhere in the world, watch what is happening anywhere else and write about it. Organizations – like the parliament and the government of St. Maarten – use these wonders of technology to communicate with their citizens. At least – I figure that was the idea when they spent money on web sites.

But web sites are like roads: if you do not maintain them they are soon full of potholes.

I realized this recently when I used the contact button on the website of the parliament. My question was simple: could you please post the amendment to the 2019 draft budget on your web site or otherwise email me a copy?

I sent my request on Wednesday, June 12, at 5.31 p.m. local time. Since I am currently based in Siem Reap, Cambodia, the time difference with St. Maarten is a cool eleven hours. So my email arrived at the parliament on the same date, but at 6.31 a.m.

I immediately received an automated reply: “Dear Hilbert Haar – Thank you for your question or feedback on our website.  You will receive a reply within 1 business day.”

I figure that the parliament’s business day begins at 8 or 9 a.m. From there on there was a whole day available to live up to the promise of sending me an answer within one business day. The deadline would have been, say, 5 p.m. in St. Maarten, or 4 a.m. the following day in Cambodia.

At the time I am writing this it is June 14, 3.30 p.m. and I still have not received an answer. I submitted my question 46 hours ago, so that one business day the automated reply mentioned has now become close to two business days. I wonder if I will ever get an answer at all.

And parliament could make its life so easy. When draft legislation is submitted to parliament it becomes public. It must be a piece of cake to dump it on the website for everyone to see. But for some reason unknown to me there are no longer national ordinances posted on the site.

Then I went looking for the budget amendment on the website of the government (www.sintmaartengov.org). I went to the page of the Ministry of Finance. And lo and behold, there it was: a button with the text Budget.

I clicked that button eagerly and indeed: there was the budget. Correction – there was a budget. To be exact: the budget of 2014.

I don’t know who is responsible for the content of these websites but surely, somebody ought to have his or her ass kicked for making the government look like a bunch of ignorant dumbos.

Sigh. Maybe there is a book called Websites for Dummies.

UPDATE
For the record: A day after I wrote this column, the parliament put the draft national ordinance budget 2019 on its web site. A day later it added the draft amendment to the budget as well.