S Ramya

KEA: Manpower crunch, slow software, less data storage snarled KCET counselling

October 20, 2022

Facing severe backlash from parents and students over glitches in the counselling process for the Karnataka Common Entrance Test (KCET), authorities have pinned it on outdated softwares and servers, insufficient manpower and complexities in categorization of students.

Thousands of students were inconvenienced when the server of Karnataka Examinations Authority (KEA) which oversees the process failed to respond, barring access to students for uploading their applications since Friday.

KEA’s executive director, S Ramya in a press briefing offered to explain the situation on Thursday. “Initially, we thought this was a software issue. We then noticed there was no output from the server. Later, we realized that there was insufficient storage space allocation at the state’s data centre. We spent an entire day getting it fixed. Even now, we have disallowed the print option to allow access to students,” she said.

Ramya also said that the government proposed to upgrade software as they are the same which existed 15 years ago. “When the server was built, the government had decided that it would only use free software. We need an upgrade now. The codes are complex. Even among students, there are multiple variations. There are variations in terms of the courses, reservations, urban or rural etc. For instance, the fee paid for a girl child is different from that of a boy. This gets the system working in loops, slowing it down. We are considering eliminating such a basic gender fee difference for applications to have the app work faster since the difference is not too much,” she said.

Unlike the previous year where counselling happened one after another, Ramya said that simultaneous counselling was proposed for CET and NEET (UG) this year to allow students to make better choices. Hence the server was overloaded, said Ramya.

Ramya added, “We also face a manpower crunch. Post Covid, it has been challenging to find software professionals. Although we offer market prices for senior coders, not many are willing to apply. We are given to understand from previous employees that unlike popular conception, the work is far more challenging in the government sector than private. Even when we must implement changes, we must think twice. In multinationals, any software changes are bound to impact a client. But here, the impact is felt by thousands of students.”

She said that the government was proposing to loop in engineering graduates on a short term basis or allow freshers to pursue a short stint while giving them incentives and certificates to address the staff crunch.

No helplines

KEA also proposes to shut its call centre and use a portal for grievance redressal instead. “Even on a day with no incidents, we receive 3,000 to 5,000 calls. Yesterday, for instance, we got 40,000 calls. Despite having a full-fledged call centre, students are unable to seek help because of the load of the calls. Some of these calls, which are general queries, not requiring time can be weeded out if we have a bot on the portal. The more deserving ones will get attention,” she said. 

Also read: Karnataka: Unhappy repeaters approach High Court over KCET rankings

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