Why Responsive Design is Overrated

B24 recently participated in a design conference in New Delhi, India. One topic of particular interest related to website design for news and media companies. While the latest buzzword responsive design was bandied about abundantly at the conference, there are several reasons that leads B24 to believe that the concept may prove to be more of a fad than a lasting design principle.

1. Performance

Whilst Moore’s Law is still applicable today, it is also important to note that the size of content and the demands on chip processors has also been increasing, and steadily so. Gone are the days of downloads measured in Kilobytes.

Even though mobile devices are more powerful now than 5 years ago, the scale of content consumed has grown. Expecting the same performance on a desktop and mobile device for the same content is not only unrealistic, it will have a direct and negative impact on user experience. This would be both in terms of speed and useability.

The separation of content and presentation is simply not good enough for the best user experience. The content has to be tailored to the device’s capabilities – something that is out of the remit of RWD (responsive web design)

2. Complexity

Responsive web design is inherently complex to implement. This complexity introduces significant inefficiencies above the content layer in order to cater for a multitude of devices.

Not only does this complexity result in challenges with respect to site maintenance, it also slows the site down. Whilst less of an issue for smaller, lower traffic websites, sites like the BBC and other large media houses that host a ton of content can grind to a halt during peak traffic periods.

Responsive Web Design image

Responsive Web Design can be both complex and expensive to implement

3. Resource intensive

As complexity increases, generally so does the implementation cost. Whilst the search for a singular solution through responsive web design may be appealing on paper, the time and money it takes to implement such solutions is rarely considered in the context of specially tailored sites for different (groups of) devices.

Both the workflows for development and testing of responsive sites are longer and more difficult for programmers to manage.

4. User experience

Ultimately, responsive web design is a one-size-fits-all approach. Such lowest common denominator strategies very rarely deliver the best user experience and responsive web design is no exception.

A simple example is that many features on mobile devices, like location-specific contextualisation aren’t implemented on responsive design websites. This is where a device specific strategy wins. While there is a different amount of work involved to develop a mobile site, these sites can be tailored to make the most use of a device’s features, screen size, software and connectivity.

An interesting analogy is looking at how Indian online casinos have evolved in terms of their design practices. The gambling industry often leads the way in terms of useability – particularly because they tend to have a very specific goal in mind in terms of user conversion and this focus guides sites like this popular website in terms of their design principles.

The online gaming industry experimented initially with responsive design and then opted for creating device specific applications and platforms instead. When asked why this was the case at the London Affiliate Conference in February 2014, the reply was consistently that the speed, layout and content had to be tailored to users on mobile devices – not just the presentation layer. It simply took users too long to find the relevant section to support conversion in the responsive model.

It is not a stretch to see why the argument above would apply to news and media companies. The biggest challenge is that they have been focused on delivering the same news content across platforms. The next step would be to consider how people currently use their devices, and for what they would like to use them for ideally. Only then can the decision be made about responsive design being a sound design principle.

Indian Migrant Remittance Statistics

During a long stint working abroad in Africa about 10 years ago, I noticed an interesting phenomenon that appears to be a common thread tying together many developing countries. This thread is essentially the flow of capital from relatively richer to relatively poorer countries. The concept of sending money home, i.e. foreign remittances, for migrant workers is one of the primary reasons many make the sacrifice to be away from their families for extended periods.

Foreign Remittance India image Not only because of the sheer volume of the migrant labour force from India, but also because of the ultimate desire of many to eventually return home to a better life, of all the countries to which money is remitted by foreign workers, India currently ranks the highest.

Last year, India, China, Philippines, Mexico and Nigeria topped the list. According to the World Bank estimates for migrant labour remittances, a total of over US$ 180 Billion was submitted by these five countries alone with India leading the list with US$70 Billion in foreign remittances and China coming in a close second with just over US$65 Billion.

Analysts believe that one trend that differentiates the capital inflow from foreign labour to India is that unlike many countries in Africa, India finds itself in the lucrative position of having highly skilled labour exports. Whilst countries like South Africa battle with relatively low-value migrant labour in blue collar roles like mining, India’s expertise in the technology space accounts for a large chunk of the local remittance statistics.

Demand for such resources have, fortunately for India, failed to decline as dramatically as the global economy has. Make no mistake, India is certainly feeling the impact of the economic slowdown but the remittance figures have been surprisingly resilient. The largest hurdle it seems is that jobs for new migrants are harder to find and policy moves to the right in many of the affected economies are making it increasingly difficult for Indian nationals to secure new work visas.

Those workers that are already abroad are quite aware of this and appear happy to stick it out as long as possible. Despite relatively high inflation in India, their earning power is still significantly greater than it would be had they remained in India. The benefits for them of working abroad also extend to a better quality of life, more facilities and generally better work-life balance. Working life in India, as any expat in India is likely to tell you, is far from easy when compared to the West. Long hours and bureaucratic processes are unfortunately par for the course.

Forex rate fluctuations over the past couple of years have even made it more lucrative for Indian workers abroad. The devalued Indian rupee means that each dollar earned abroad carries that much more weight back home. As the American economy recovers and the dollar strengthens further, this is likely to remain the case for some time to come.

As e-wallet technologies have become more commonplace, Indians abroad are smartly using many of the online deposit options, which were largely intended to fund international players wanting to gamble at some online casino or to play lottery, for their foreign remittances to their families in India. These electronic deposit methods have tremendously reduced the cost of transfers and their use is likely to increase going forward as Indians and other migrant workers become more comfortable with and trusting of the technology.

If ever there was an economic development case to be made supporting the mobility of labour, this would be it. The amount remitted to many developing countries now exceeds the countries international development loans. As the move toward a knowledge economy progresses steadily, it’s likely that investment in better technology infrastructure in India would reap huge rewards. Whilst this move may ultimately reduce migrant remittances in the long run, India will still be better off. Imagine earning dollars whilst working at home in India – surely this is the best of all worlds!

Corruption in India

The recent incident of gang rape in Delhi has raised many questions about the law, women’s rights in India, inaction by politicians as well as corruption in the political establishment in India. On a recent visit to South Africa, which faces its own significant challenges with respect to corruption, B24 discovered that the Indian situation is actually far worse.

Corruption in India photo

Social activist Anna Hazare protests against Corruption in India

Corruption in India has been in the news highlights a number of times over the last year. The 2012 Indian anti-corruption movement manifested as a series of nationwide protests and demonstrations. The movement intended to establish stronger laws against political corruption and to boost their associated enforcement mechanisms. The leader of the anti-corruption movement, Anna Hazare certainly left his mark with his fast that forced many in government into somewhat awkward positions.

But have these annual anti-corruption movements and hunger strikes by strong public figures made any difference in real terms? The answer, unfortunately is no. According to the local watchdog, the Association for Democratic Reforms in India, some 158 out of 543 Members of Parliament – i.e. almost one third of all MPs in India face criminal charges. Even in South Africa, that is hardly the case despite some high profile cases in the courts leveled against president Zuma himself there.

To aggravate matters, the one third of dodgy statistic also extends to lawmakers across all states. About half of these, which totals over 600, in fact were recorded as being serious offenses like murder, rape, kidnapping, extortion, fraud and robbery. These very people are being given tickets by political parties to hold positions of real power at both state and national level. 36 of them have actually won polls – this includes 6 MPs! Now if that is deemed acceptable then India is really in trouble.

Corruption in India is generally accepted as a fact of life. The NGO Transparency International in their 2008 study showed that 40% of Indians had first-hand experience of offering bribes or using contacts in public office in order to complete some transaction or other. This corruption is largely facilitated by the massive bureaucracy that is Indian government. The mechanisms through which its executed include complicated tax and licensing systems subject to much subjectivity, excessive and inefficient regulation, poor corporate governance and discretionary powers given to public offices that don’t have adequate accountability processes in place.

So what is being done in India to address this situation? For one, the persons of authority facing more serious charges are being expected to quit voluntarily. One can only wonder if the candidate has no conscience in committing a particular crime, what chance is there that he will see it as a moral imperative to leave a cushy position in government?

With all the hype about Rahul Gandhi saving Congress and his stated strong conviction for anti-corruption laws, his party has given tickets to 24 candidates in the last 5 years alone, despite the corruption charges against them. The BJP fared better but hardly so with a tally of 5 tickets given to candidates charges with corruption. Other regional parties were found to be just as guilty.

When people that are of dubious honesty assume positions of power, there is a great likelihood that the the situation will perpetuate itself. All it takes, after all, is one rotten apple to spoil the basket. This situation does not lend itself well to achieving a progressive, corruption-free India. Further, it begs the question how serious is India really about squashing corruption?

For the moment, it seems that Indian politicians are quite content to simply manage corruption rather than squash it. When there is a public uproar such as that induced by the Anna Hazare type of mass action, then a tidbit concession is thrown to the public. But these tidbits are rarely of consequence to what is clearly an endemic corruption challenge that India now faces.

Appointing a government led commission of inquiry against corruption in India, such as that formed by the presidency in South Africa is likely to have zero effect. The challenge is that even the appointments to that commission may tainted before its actual work begins. The body investigating corruption needs to be an independent one to serve as a proper check-and-balance mechanism. Not only that, as Anna Hazare suggests, it needs to have real teeth that can do damage when corruption is found. Without such an independent public mechanism in place Indian politicians will continue to have the run of the roost and certainly no progress will be made. Until such a body is in place Indians have as much chance of solving the corruption problem as they have of winning if they take a chance on an online casino or if they decide to play lottery in India – they may be optimistic when they start off gambling or purchase the ticket but it only takes a very short time to realise that they were living a fool’s dream.

Can Rahul Gandhi save Congress?

Rahul Gandhi’s recent promotion to Vice President of the Congress Party seems to be providing a much-needed boost within the party. But will this appointment make any difference or will Congress continue to languish?

Corruption and accusations of government incompetence are rife in India at the moment, particularly with the recent rape case that is raising the profile women’s rights issues in India. Mr Gandhi, for many, is seen as part of that very establishment.

Rahul Gandhi photo

“It was more a question of when Rahul Gandhi would assume party leadership, rather than whether he would or not.”

Critics are quick to point out that Rahul Gandhi has only exhibited some low-key successes and failures in his political career. Other than being part of the Gandhi dynasty, he totally lacks the street cred required to make a real political impact. Proving to stick to his word on some relatively minor issues and having a lucrative surname in Indian politics is simply not enough.

Mr Gandhi has also been somewhat notoriously quiet when it comes to parliamentary participation and engaging in public political debate. In fact, in his MP career he posed only two questions in debates – in 2005 and 2012. Hardly the characteristic of someone aspiring to be prime minister on his own merit.

His speech, albeit ironically speaking of meritocratic politics, did make all the right noises, and came off as expected by any politician, But his actions leave him far from being as credible as BJP leader Narendra Modi for example. Mr Modi, who is currently on his 4th successive term as chief minister of Gujarat has some significant achievements under his belt already.

Perhaps had he been more active in his role as MP and made a real impact one would be more optimistic about the future of Congress. At 42, he would have made a refreshing change to India’s geriatric leadership.

As was the case with his father Rajiv Gandhi, saying the words, no matter how passionately, is not enough. Congress is filled with a rot based in dynastic leadership and sycophancy – fixing that will be no easy task.

As yet Rahul still has to build credibility by stating how he proposes to tackle corruption, economic challenges, women’s rights and foreign policy challenges with Pakistan and China. Perhaps if he takes action on developing a clear vision for himself and Congress on these issues, India might have reason to be a bit more optimistic.

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Stay tuned on our forthcoming series on corruption in India, women’s rights, the legality of online gambling in India and more. In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about international lottos and more, then please visit the play lottery online page or if you’d like to try your luck right now then click here for more international options. If you’re currently based in India, please be sure to read B24’s online casino legal in India? article first!

Women’s Rights in India

The horrific gang rape of a 23 year old medical student in Delhi last month has once again brought a number of serious societal and gender issues to the fore in India. The young girl from Singapore, who later died in hospital from the injuries she sustained, has inspired a wave of angry protest across the country.

Candlelight vigil for Delhi rape victim imageOver the last decade, there have been numerous shocking rapes reported in India. These range from incidents in a suburban Mumbai train to one on campus at Delhi University at the historical monument of Khooni Darwaza. The victims were not all young students either – they ranged from a Swiss diplomat at an international film festival to a hospital nurse who later had her eyes gouged out. The issues at hand are far from being isolated ones affecting a small minority. They are telling signs of a disease that seems to have a stranglehold on the nation.

According to local women’s groups, there is at least one rape every hour in India. Females belonging to lower castes and those from tribal origins face the highest risks in terms of abuse. It is sad that these statistics, which are anything but hidden, are only raising public fury following the death of this young lady with a promising future. Many incidents of rape in villages and small towns are quite plainly ignored. The lack of recourse for victims and even worse, the lack of acknowledgement that they are in fact victims has caused the ugly status quo to persist.

As in the case of the Arab Spring, social media played a significant role in raising the profile of a particular occurrence. In Tunisia, the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi marked the turning point that was to upset an unacceptably unjust status quo there. Similarly in India now, the likes of Facebook and Twitter are helping fuel the protests, hopefully to the extent of achieving a lasting outcome on issues that have been swept under the carpet for far too long.

The call for tougher Indian rape laws have been around for a long time. With every publicised incident, awareness of women’s issues has increased. Unfortunately this awareness, in terms of India’s public administration at least, has not resulted in much, if any, alleviation for women. Sexual harassment is rife in India and the conviction of rapists is extremely difficult under the current legislation. The demands by activist groups for rape laws to be modernised has largely been futile to date. Law makers and corrupt politicians have all but stagnated in response to women’s activist groups.

Indian anti-rape protestors imageDelhi, in particular, is said to have one of the highest rates of crime against women in India and this is very much where the protest is currently focused. This gang-rape straw that will potentially break the camel’s back has resulted in vocal calls for the death penalty against rapists. Indian politicians have been caught on the back foot and still no leader has come out with a clear stance and proposed action plan on how to handle this and future such incidents. In fact, there has barely been any interaction, let alone reassuring of the protesting masses, that appropriate action will be taken.

So, what is it that needs to happen here? Firstly, this wave of aggressive public protest needs to grow and grow until the government is forced to take positive action, if only to appease the masses. If it remains in the territory of a social media trending flavour of the month, the situation will just dissipate and India will need to wait for another such atrocity in order to get all riled up. Updating Facebook profile and BBM photos with a supportive candle, and forwarding related email chains is simply not enough. Such feel-good tokens are akin to play lottery and hoping that’s done enough to resolve all your financial concerns. The real question here is whether the Indian public, and particularly women, have what it takes to fight for what they believe is right. This is an opportunity second to none to take a stand and force a much-needed change in India.

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If all this Delhi rape news is too much for you to handle, then perhaps this would be a good time to try some alternative online entertainment. Click here to play some online casino games or visit these country guides to gamble online for real money. Stay tuned for the full B24 report on the legality and future of online gambling in India later this month.

Sports Event Legacies

Following the neatly rescued debacle that was the Commonwealth Games in India in 2010, many Indians were left debating the true legacy of such major sporting events. With the launch today of the London 2012 Olympics, B24 has no doubt that many Londoners will be asking themselves the same question.

2012 Olympics Stadium photo

London 2012 Olympics Stadium. Photo Source: Getty Images.

Hosting the likes of the FIFA World Cup or the Olympics requires a four to eight year program. The world cups in other global sports like cricket and rugby are far smaller with regard to the number of participating countries and hence do not require the same inputs with regard to sporting facilities and other needs such as accommodation. Bridging finance has to be put in place, together with a team of planners and political heads who have to manage tenders and then oversee the work being done. In short, a host country has to divert enormous resources, both human and material, into ensuring that it is ready for that all-important opening ceremony.

But is this expenditure and diversion of national energy worthwhile? Does it leave a positive long term legacy? The answer is not straightforward and each host country begs for different criteria to be used. As a recent article in the British Guardian put it: “As every host city is different and has different priorities, the IOC encourages each one to define its own objectives and create a long-term strategy and vision from the beginning of the bid process. Each host is urged to look at how the Games can be a catalyst for development. This subsequently provides the Games organizers with clear objectives to aim for during the seven years of Olympic preparation and beyond.” The article goes on to say, “The best Olympics regenerate neglected districts, inspire children to take up sport and leave a city furnished with world-class venues and rolling in Olympic dollars – Barcelona is a good example of this. The worst are poisoned chalices that leave a nation in debt and a city overrun by white elephants – look no further than Athens.”

There is clearly a wide gamut of experience. Los Angeles and Atlanta mobilized private capital and thus had almost no municipal debt; Barcelona revamped its port and other rundown neighbourhoods and ignited a new wave of national enthusiasm for sport; Beijing reduced pollution; the 2006 German soccer world cup changed the way foreigners regarded the country and consolidated the reunification of East and West. In each case there is a long list of plusses and minuses – for the consequences impact differently given the subjective needs and capacities of each host.

Having said this, the overall evidence shows that unless there are long term contracts signed up front before these mega-sporting events take place (particularly with regard to future and ongoing use of the facilities), then maintenance costs and use of the facilities will fall short of what is needed to make them sustainable and not a drain on municipal finance. In most cases, a city does not ordinarily require stadia as large as the ones built for the mega-competitions; ongoing local and international events have far more modest dimensions. In extreme instances (such as Seoul) the main stadium is being dismantled because of unbearable maintenance costs; Montreal, Athens, Barcelona, Johannesburg and Sydney are also finding it difficult to make good use of their stadia.

South Africa - FIFA Soccer City stadium image

Whilst many jobs are creating in constructing stadiums for these mega-sports events, ongoing maintenance costs of these stadiums are often severely underestimated. Photo source: Davina Jogi

Let us conclude by taking a brief look at South Africa’s hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup which cost the country R40 billion (about US$5 Billion). South Africa now has superlative stadia in some seven cities but the maintenance costs are not being met through the earning of income from events – indeed, their use has been extremely limited – and further debt is being incurred or resources are being diverted from other facilities in order to keep them going; the Johannesburg Gautrain (linking the main airport with the city and with Pretoria), is now in place as is a new bus service – but these new transport facilities are too expensive for most commuters and do not yet provide an extensive city-wide service; the regeneration of neighbourhoods was not a success – a clear example of this aspect being rhetorical rather than a serious commitment; tourism has not mushroomed – in fact, there is an over-supply of expensive hotels; local sport (particularly soccer) has not been given an injection of self-belief nor has the bonus received from FIFA been put to good use in regard to providing grassroots support to communities and schools that still lack any real sports facilities.

In short, despite the obvious feel-good factor (and yes, both India and South Africa really did enjoy the party during their respective events with the hard realities of unemployment, corruption, crime and malfunctioning state departments temporarily blown away by the vuvuzelas and mass euphoria), the medium to long term benefits seem to be very skimpy. However, as with most extravaganzas, the spotlight quickly moves to other cities and countries, and the deficiencies of planning and execution are buried under the brilliance of ever more elaborate shows – each being hailed as the best ever. For we humans are suckers for diversion, and these mega-sports events serve as very useful catharses for the pent up stresses of a capitalist civilization that is very precarious.

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This is not to take away from the party that is currently being had by those in London for the 2012 Olympics. Hope and positivity abounds for both athletes and the participating nations – in fact, even the UK lottery has been ramped up to epic proportions as part of the hype. If you’re in India and would like to join that part of the fun, visit the B24 play lottery online page today. International readers can visit this website instead to participate.

If you feel that national investment in these mega-sports events are tantamount to gambling here or on some online casino, then you are clearly not alone. Unfortunately, only time will tell whether the likes of the Olympics, World Cup, or Commonwealth Games will deliver the legacies they promised. So far, for the most part, the empirical evidence does not paint a hopeful picture at all.

Freedom of Expression in India

3rd May 2012 was World Press Freedom Day. Whilst international media generally targets the likes of China for their clampdown on ‘sensitive’ programming, it is concerning that India seems to be following close suit. It appears to be becoming increasingly easy to offend the Indian powers that be, and consequently face the reality of censorship or even legal action.

Whilst the Indian constitution does not specifically provide for freedom of the press, it is implied from Article 19(1)(a). As is currently the case in another BRICS country, South Africa, the caveats to this clause are providing leverage for the government. While seemingly innocuous on paper, the broad and subjective nature of the restrictions have significant ramifications on press freedoms. These restrictions include:

  1. Security of the State – i.e. anything that could be deemed to endanger national security including the waging of war or rebellion against the government;
  2. Friendly relations with foreign States – e.g. inflammatory articles that may jeopardise India’s good relations;
  3. Public order – i.e. anything that might upset the public peace – would promotion of the recent mass action against corruption a la Anna Hazare meet this criteria?
  4. Decency and morality – Whilst pornography may be an obvious target of this restriction, Indians would be wise to bear in mind that until a few years ago, even kissing in Bollywood movies was regarded as a form of obscenity;
  5. Contempt of court – this speaks to statements made that would undermine the authority of the court;
  6. Defamation – statement that harms the reputation of another person
  7. Incitement to an offence – i.e. statements that encourage wrongful or illegal behaviour, and finally
  8. Sovereignty and integrity of India – i.e. utterances that question the integrity of India.

One of the biggest cause of concerns in India with respect to these restrictions is the rise of Internet censorship. Recently, Member of Parliament P. Rajeeve introduced in the Rajya Sabha a motion calling for the Intermediary Guidelines Rules (aka Internet censorship law) passed last year to be annulled. Should this motion not receive the support of the majority of both Houses and be passed, the consequences to freedom of expression in India would be dire.

freedom of the press imageAlready, India has witnessed multiple cases of abuse of the free speech laws, especially through the Information Technology Act. Evidence includes the forced removal of CartoonsAgainstCorruption.com, the arrests of M. Karthik, a young Hyderabadi atheist, and of Prof. Ambikesh Mahapatra for allegedly ‘defamatory’ cartoons of Mamata Banerjee. Make no mistake, internet censorship is not a new thing in India. Even in the mid-90’s, certain websites were blocked through executive order. In 2008, the Information Technology Act was amended to increase transparency but there is still significant evidence of extra-legal censorship (this can be effectively measured by observing the disparity between Google censorship statistics and the official government stats).

The current censorship rules remain in place since April 2011, despite much protest from various champions of free speech including individuals like P. Rajeeve, Rajeev Chandrashekar, and Kumar Deepak Das, as well as organisations like Google India and Software Freedom Law Centre. These censorship rules allow for any person or organisation to get content removed from the Internet within 36 hours by simply requesting an intermediary like Google, Facebook, Rediff, etc. to do so. The content provider would be obliged, with zero recourse to any challenge, to remove the content. Once again, internet censorship was made as unaccountable as it was before the 2008 amendments to the ITA – the only difference is that now, the power to censor lies in public hands, and is not just the remit of select state officials.

Following a media backlash, the censorship rules are currently under review but the spate of lawsuits effectively promoting censorship indicate that India has still not found its way forward.

“Especially in the creative sphere, the last two decades have been progressively intolerant.” – Nilanjana Roy, literary critic and columnist

Press censorship has had a particularly negative impact to those in the arts. The examples are plentiful: from the banning of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses in the late eighties, to the recent gagging of political cartoonist Aseem Trivedi for treason because he was inspired by Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement and took to ‘insult’ India’s national emblems in his illustrations.

Couple this with increasing politically motivated news censorship and shocking statements like the judge in the Delhi high court warning that: “Like China, we can block all such Web sites”, in reference to the likes of Google and Facebook, it is clear that the world’s largest democracy may be straying from its path when it comes to freedom of expression.

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Stay tuned for more editorials covering poverty in India, the legacy of large sporting events like the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, the legality around Indian online gambling and reviews of new sites that allow people to buy lotto tickets online from India. B24 will also be producing a series of articles on disability in India, the stumbling blocks to economic growth and overtaking China. Until then, thanks for reading and we congratulate the efforts of all those working toward improvements for a free press in India.