Developing the SAPS website for optimal service delivery
2 Online presence for SAPS
Investigation into the establishment of the SAPS website in the
late 1990s produced few results. No documentation was recorded at
the SAPS itself. The SAPS Internet Policy document (SAPS 2000)
makes little mention of the SAPS website, although it does reflect
indirectly on it. This document which was compiled “to ensure the
correct usage of the Internet within the SAPS”, states that the
Internet “aims to open a window into the SAPS for the public to
establish shared trust and to enhance communication by –
- promoting public involvement through sharing the
responsibility of crime prevention;
- supplying information;
- supplying crime related information and
- education; and
adhering to general requests from the public” (SAPS 2000).
Promoting greater involvement by the private sector in
rendering assistance to the SAPS would portend well for the
future. If the system of cooperation between the community and the
SAPS could be made to work successfully, this could add a further
vital contribution towards mobilising all available resources in
the battle to prevent and combat the incidence of crime.
The Government Communication and Information Systems (GCIS),
which was established in 1998, in 2000 encouraged government
departments to establish an online presence in the form of a
website (GCIS 2000). The SAPS website, which was already in
existence, was thus a forerunner in terms of government online
In 2001 an audit undertaken by GCIS into existing government
websites indicated various shortcomings in the SAPS website
regarding content, organisation, navigation, design and layout (GCIS
2001). Various factors pointed to the need for the effectiveness
of the SAPS website to be assessed; one of the main reasons being
that some of the information furnished was not regularly updated.
There were a number of concerned and dedicated officials who
submitted information for publication from time to time. However,
the task was not clearly allocated to specific staff, and various
persons at different offices worked at it, when their other tasks
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The task of streamlining and keeping the contents and structure
of the SAPS website up to date has been and is complicated by the
fact that in terms of legislation, the State Information
Technology Agency (SITA) is responsible for establishing and
maintaining all government websites. SITA is the IT service agency
for the South African government. Its stated aim is to “develop
the powerful Internet platform” (Blom & Willers 2001).
SAPS staff members are responsible for providing the content.
SITA then places it on the website, and updates the design,
structure and navigation. This ‘remote control’ of the website –
the SAPS headquarters, where the content is gathered, is situated
in the Pretoria CBD, while SITA is on the outskirts of Pretoria –
complicates the process, especially regarding the time factor and
the proximity of role-players.
Yet there can be no doubt as to the importance of the World
Wide Web for the SAPS, or any police agency for that matter, in
carrying out its functions and rendering service to its clients
today. Commander Dave Pettinari of the Pueblo County Sheriff’s
department sums it up neatly “... if you come to work without the
Internet it will be like a patrolman coming to work without his
patrol car. The Internet will be that critical in accomplishing
our mission by virtue of more efficient and timely access to
information” (in Reynecke & Fourie 2001:31).
The SAPS website, as all other communication tools, must be
assessed in terms of its service delivery, which is required of it
as a government communication medium (cf. GCIS 2001). However, if
it is to meet the information needs of its online users it must
also be an effective website, and, specifically, an effective
police agency website.
There is no dearth of literature on the requirements of
effective websites in general. However, information as to what
makes for an effective police agency website specifically could
not be found in secondary sources.
Given these factors, it was decided to undertake an
investigation into possible guidelines for an effective police
agency website (cf. Sonderling 2003). In the study undertaken,
this was done by examining primary sources – firstly, the needs of
users of the SAPS website and, secondly, other police agency
websites. From this, guidelines to improve the existing SAPS
website could be compiled.
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