A day in a life of Online Communications

23 November 2009

The Online Communications unit is part of the Communication and Marketing Department (CMD), and is based at Welgelegen on middle campus. It is staffed by OC head Rethea Deetlefs, Senior PHP developer Nico Badenhuizen, and HTML coder Malibongwe Dywibiba.

What does the unit do on day-to-day basis?

The unit's main responsibility is to develop and run the corporate website, but they also provide websites on the CMD content management system, as their limited capacity allows. The team looks after the websites of five faculties - Commerce runs their own - except for the editing and updating of content. They have always tried to assist the university community at large with their own websites, but that service is ending in 2010 because of workload. "Our core work - the UCT site and the CMD CMS - has to come first," Deetlefs explains.

What are the challenges?

The section does not have enough resources to assist everyone at UCT with their website development, even though they would love to do so, meaning they often turn people away. But they do suggest alternative service providers. However, departments often have no budget for websites, which means their sites lie fallow, to the detriment of UCT's good reputation. Online Communications will play its part in the proposed university's Web Renewal Project, which is set to address all web issues, including policies, hardware and software. "There are exciting times ahead," says Deetlefs. The perception that websites are irrelevant or, at best, a nice-to-have, still exists at UCT, even at the highest levels. "That you still need to explain to people the importance of a professional online presence (that's up to date) is mind-boggling, especially at a university," Deetlefs notes.

What are the highs and lows of the job?

Having a website go live is a definite high, with the new website for the Faculty of Health Sciences a case in point. In the past the team has provided websites that have not been updated since inception, which qualifies as a low.

What is the weirdest thing you have encountered?

The unit's staff often seem to be the 'go-to' people for things completely outside their purview. "People confuse us with ICTS", Deetlefs says. It is not unknown for the team to receive phone calls or emails from irate clients wanting to know where their new websites are, when the team is still waiting for the content with which to build them. But what tops them all was the phone call from a man wanting to know where his brother's body was. "It had been donated to the Faculty of Health Sciences, and he wanted the remains."

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