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Interview: Umuntu Media
Africa has over a billion people. But with just one registered domain per 10 000 people, it is a continent crying out for local content. We are bridging that gap, using technology to directly connect people who want to know what's going on in their area, all day, every day.
What does Umuntu Media do and what is its Joomla! story? In which African countries does Umuntu operate?
We run local content portals across Africa. With an influx of all the cables and connectivity, internet speeds are increasing and prices are dropping, but the one huge gap is local content for the African people. We exist because we love Africa, we love technology and we have a passion for local content.
The i-portals are currently being run in the following countries: Namibia, Mozambique, Angola, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania. All of these run on Joomla.
We required a dynamic and powerful CMS solution that could be duplicated to give us the same infrastructure across all the sites we have. Fast, easy to use and mobile ready. As this is Africa speed was also a very important issue.
Describe the particular challenge of streamlining data across multi-sites, and how was Joomla! used to do this?
We upload approx. 100-150 articles per day per site. So we need a CMS that can offer a very high level of support and give us the confidence to not be concerned about any technological issues.
Our main concern when the sites were built was how the following would work:
- Template updates across multiple installations
- How to get content into the system so the copy paste method could be avoided
- Make sure that we were always on the latest versions of the cms & components
- From a content point of view we needed to streamline the editors job. The previous setup included several areas to create one article. The addition of K2 CKK helped us achieve a goal where we could add content to multiple areas by using the same system and also different types of content.
- A tight integration with Facebook single sign-on, Facebook, like, Facebook comments & Facebook moderation tools.
- OpenGraph is also used extensively on the site.
- Mobile integration was a very strong element, and we built a mobile application which has a template size of 30kb, much smaller in weight than most mobile sites. The mobile area has changed a lot since the beginning. It now focuses on News, Jobs, Lifestyle, What's on. Advertising has been added recently, along with the new Facebook Comments system. The Mobile system hooks directly into the K2 CCK, where the editor only has to crop the thumbnail image to adapt for the mobile list view.
- We have also used some server scripts to run sync protocols from localhost to beta server then to live server. An update takes 5-10 minutes across all the sites if there are code changes.
Very important is that all the sites run exactly the same version of the Joomla! CMS and all components are up to date.
What are the challenges to having a successful web presence in Africa?
Like any media organisation, our challenges are content and relevance. Obtaining content is a costly exercise and delivering that content across 9 countries, one can often lose relevance to a specific country. Joomla allows us to keep each country independent from each other yet still part of the family of portals.
How does Joomla! help to meet these challenges?
Challenges are huge but at the same time the opportunities are just as big. Connectivity, speed, price and getting relevant content from the ground is always a challenge.
Joomla! has helped in the following ways:
- Streamline the template development process, especially when it comes to making cosmetic changes across multiple domains. Our server scripts also help this process.
- The addition of new technology and ideas is also much easier as we have a solid platform which to work from, this also means when we have new ideas they are normally implemented quickly and effectively without the site breaking.
- Editors now have one point of adding content and are not overwhelmed by the fact that they need to edit in several areas to make a single article.
- We use a tool to import content from various sources. This has been a huge requirement in getting fresh and relevant content onto the sites on a daily basis.
- RSS Syndication is provided for various parties.
- From a user experience the site is more consistent with less errors. With the addition of mobile the reach of the sites has increased with far greater results than just the use of the website alone.
Please describe the success of the iNamibia site
It has been a huge success, it is currently the largest local website in Namibia and it has the biggest Facebook community in that country and all of this was achieved in just over 1 year.
We launched in January 2011 and after only 3 months we were recognised as one of the best sites in the country. Growth came steadily thereafter. And today we are the biggest and most read website in the country. Surpassing much more established and larger media organisations and newspapers. We did this in less than 18 months.
What are your future projects?
We are aware that content is much more than news, weather, jobs etc. Content needs to be specific, relevant and timely for readers, to solve this we need to create a platform for citizen journalism and hyper local communication.
Currently we are rolling out a multi-platform communications tool, called Mimiboard. That will enable us to gather and share hyper-local content with all our users and not be limited by any country borders or cost challenges.
Joomla has thus far seamlessly integrated with this technology that was built on the Google App engine.