Give locals the chance to prove their worth

Dear Editor,

In 2013, the Ministry of Tourism contracted Travel Digital, a UK company, to develop an “online strategy” which included a newly revamped www.visitantiguabarbuda.com – which contains an integrated booking agent, as well as an iPad app, a mobile app, and a social media strategy.

They couldn’t use anyone locally because apparently we weren’t good enough.

The site was not responsive and built on a dated Joomla platform that was not mobile friendly in any way. All it had were pretty pictures. The booking platform would tell you to take the Barbuda Ferry from Miami to get here. The company was created in 2012, around the time the government was building its tourism website. Now, Travel Digital can’t be found, even in a Google search.

I first saw the site in the spring of 2013 while it was being developed and a ministry official asked me for my thoughts. I gave my recommendations on what was needed to change and one or two things were changed before it was launched.

I was first openly critical of the site winter 2013 when I saw it being promoted proudly and publicly and realised that they didn’t listen to most of my recommendations. Then to compound my displeasure, the figure of how much spent so far was released and I almost fainted.

I then got quotes from two studios — one in NYC and one in Toronto — on how much they valued the site. A maximum quote was returned of EC $360,000. I made this info public again and stated that we were being robbed.

Then Turnbull requested more money and was holding the government hostage, saying that unless they got money then they were not going to hand over the website. At this point they had already received EC $3.5 million.

I tried reaching out to the tourism minister to discuss this issue publicly after hearing him listing a bunch of site features that were basically tech jargon I knew he knew nothing about, but got no response.

Fast-forward to 2015 and a few nights ago I decided to check up on the site and saw it had changed completely. Me being a UX Designer, I spotted an all too familiar alignment grid I know to be akin to WordPress. I obviously inspected the code for the site and behold it was a WordPress site indeed. I checked the theme being used and traced it back to its original theme foundry and found out it was a theme being sold for US $54 dollars.

Three point five million EC dollars spent on a website to a shady UK company, only to ultimately end up with a US $54 website. All that money wasted, given away by the government. Funny enough, if any local person had quoted them even 5 per cent of that you wouldn’t hear the end of how “wicked” they were.

Locals are continuously being short-changed. We outsource jobs because we feel that locals aren’t good enough. Then when students prefer to stay overseas after completing their degrees we see them as unpatriotic. They spend hundreds of thousands on school to be bonded back to a country that treats them like this.

Yup, let’s just sweep it under the rug like it never happened.

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