DAY Four (Dec 1) UPDATE: GLITCHES PERSIST IN MANY CENTRES; BLAME GAME BEGINS.
Computer glitches hassle thousands of students across India, taking the Common Entrance Test for admission to the Indian Institutes of Management, online for the first time
Management gurus and your so-called technology partners, hang your heads in shame and go to the back of your own class. Before you preach global management practices at some of the stiffest higher education fees in India, you should practice the basic tenet that even small businesses and development houses adopt ( and without any fancy MBA titles after their name). That says, don't unleash a software or hardware solution on the public, till you have tested it for every possible glitch -- and then tested it some more. And above all, don't blame the customer if anything goes wrong. It is for you to make your solution dummy-proof.
The honchos responsible for conducting the Common Admission Test (CAT) of the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and their technology partner Prometric, are apparently innocent of any such understanding. They joined to make the test an online affair for the first time this year -- and to handle the 241,500 students who had registered to take the test, they set up centres across 32 cities where students could write the test online, over a 10 day period starting November 28. Our math says approx 24,000 students would have been online simultaneously on any given day. For a real time online application, that does not appear to be a daunting piece of logistics.
Yet on Saturday, reports poured in from at least 10 centres across the country of computers hanging up, passwords rejected, screens freezing, keyboards so slow, students just couldn't answer the questions. In centre after centre, tests were cancelled and students asked to stand by to take it another day.
The response of those in charge has been ungracious to say the least. They stress that the students have lost nothing and can do it again. No sensitivity, no apology, for thousands of young people who travel from interior places to reach the exam centres, spending precious money on an overnight stay in a strange town. "Online tests are not time and space bound" is the lofty reaction of IIM Kozhikode director D. Chatterjee, quoted in DNA. No Sir, we thought, pardon our ignorance, that online meant just that -- time bound and instantaneous. The word is Real Time, Sir. In one centre alone in Bangalore, 1000 students had to go home on Saturday without being able to do the CAT.
If IIM or their technology partners are too challenged to set up an online test where less than 50,000 log in at the same time, they are better off outsourcing the operation to any of the hundreds of Indian service providers who routinely handle a hundred times this number . We know of at least two state school boards in Kerala and Maharashtra who have created glitch-free online exam or admission systems where the numbers are comparable.
The world is watching you, IIM. They will be saying : These Indians boast of being the best outsourced service providers, yet they can't handle a fairly simple piece of online logistics without making a mess...
Back to the drawing board ( sorry, should we say CAD station?) guys; your online CAT has been a mouse-challenged kitten. Get IT right next time.
- Bangalore Nov 29 2009