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October 30, 1998


Credit policy sparks outage at RBI site

Priya Ganapati in Bombay

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Internet enthusiasts were let down badly today when they could not access the Reserve Bank of India's half-yearly credit policy on the Net.

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who wanted to view the credit policy on the Net within minutes of its announcement this morning.

But from approximately 12.30 pm today the site continuously sported a message: Too many users please try later.

Jignesh Shah, an analyst at the Triumph International Securities complains "We were trying since 12.30 pm on the Internet but could not get access to it (the RBI site)."

A senior forex dealer at a leading private commercial bank expressed similar views and added that it was only because of news agencies that they could get highlights of the credit policy.

The Reserve Bank of India's site is maintained by Computer Access Private Limited, a company that among other services, hosts and updates Web sites.

The company also owns the server located at the Madras office of Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited, India's Internet and overseas telecommunications monopoly.

When contacted, sources at the RBI alleged that it was due to a problem at VSNL that they could not load the credit policy matter on the site.

"Since 12.30 pm they are telling us that the problem will be rectified in 10 or 15 minutes but till 4 pm now there is no sign of a solution," an RBI official lamented.

Joe, an executive from Computer Access, however, refuses to lay the blame at the gates of VSNL. "It is surely not a problem of VSNL. We had not expected such a response from the users, which led to some technical difficulties," he revealed.

"There were too many users hitting the site. We were surprised that so many users were clicking through. Frankly we don't know where so many people are coming from. Usually we never get into this mode of too many hits. I don't think we ever go into it. But today the hits were much more than what we had expected," Joe explained.

He estimates the number of hits today to be at least 60 per cent more than usual. He, however, would not reveal the absolute figures.

Though executives at Computer Access Private Limited claimed that the "technical problem" was rectified by 4.30 pm Internet users could not access the site till around 6 pm.

Later, a terse apology on the site was all one could get by the way of an explanation. Reproduced here is the apology on the site that gives little clue as to the failure that derailed RBI's credit policy on the Net for hours:

Due to system failure, we were unable to carry the Credit Policy at 12.30 p.m. (IST). We apologise for the inconvenience.

Joe refused to elaborate on the precise nature of the technical problem while RBI officials claimed total ignorance on the subject.

Most companies and organisations in the country have not reconciled themselves to the growing Web awareness in the country. All have to have a presence on the Internet. Bit few sites are updated on a daily basis and fewer are prepared for difficult situations like outages.

Though RBI's naiveté in terms of underestimating the reach of the Net did not prove fatal this time, it underlines the laid-back attitude of even the most premier of the country's organisations towards the reality of the Internet.

But if not the Internet the RBI seems to be at least taking its internal network seriously. It plans to set up a high-level national payments council to provide guidance in undertaking major initiatives to establish a robust integrated payment and settlement system in the country.

Indicating this in its half-yearly monetary and credit policy the RBI said that it has already instituted a payment system group and VSAT user groups to deal with issues relating to 'real time gross settlement' system.

The successful implementation of such a system would depend on the active co-operation of all market participants including commercial banks.

RBI hopes that the internal network would provide an opportunity and a challenge to carefully plan and design a strategy to move towards the RTGS system that has been adopted by many countries.

The objective of the internal network would be to bring about operational efficiency, speed, better accuracy and timeliness of payment transactions. It would also contain financial risks in the national payments.

At present, substantial costs are involved in financial transactions mainly due to payment system floats, delays in processing and legal hurdles in settlements. The RTGS system, they hope will improve the conduct of monetary policy in the context of financial market reforms and opening up of the economy.

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 - Additional inputs from UNI

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