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December 8, 1997


Wired for nothing

T S Eliot wrote of 'force without action'. Now the prestigious
Indian Institute of Management has a 'network without content'.
Who is to blame?

Of what use is a network without applications that deploy it? And who is to develop the applications when nobody has committed to doing it? The questions daunt the joint endeavour of Digital Equipment India Limited and the four Indian Institute of Management varsities for developing a nationwide network - the IIM-Net.

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Professor of information systems at IIM Ahmedabad, B H Jajoo, says, "In March, Digital had launched the IIM-Net in the presence of (Microsoft CEO) Bill Gates. But till now we have not been able to put any application that will aid the collaborative working of all the IIMs to use.

"Software may have been delivered but reconfiguration of software according to the institutes' requirement, training of users, and the like have not been done.''

But Som Mittal, DEIL managing director, has another explanation: "It is a question of expectations. We have set up all the needed hardware and the software tools. Now, only the content has to be put up. We have given guidance on the usage of software tools so that the IIMs may develop applications.''

Binod Singh, DEIL vice-president, rationalises: "It is an issue of complexity. You have four different institutes, which are unique. To bring them together notwithstanding their differing requirements is an immense task. Further, you need a certain number of man-hours for developing such applications. They have to decide which of the IIMs is going to provide this.''

The complexity of the task proved to be so much that four months ago representatives of DEIL and all IIMs met in Bangalore. It was then decided that LibSys, used by some IIMs now, might be upgraded to make it Web-enabled.

But blame is still being passed around. Jajoo claims no training to enable service functionality was given. But Digital sources swear it was given twice, and that the development of applications is not the onus of a vendor.

As the impasse continues, IIMs are trying to develop the application themselves.

But Jajoo says "It takes time since we have about 400 PCs and 15 servers to collaborate with.''

Well, the IIMs are trying to do what Digital thought they would - developing applications themselves - what is it that has put the joint endeavour to so much desperation?

Sources say one factor that has slowed down the whole process is the different level of expertise among the IIMs. "So, one institute questions why it should do some dirty work when another can be doing it.''

And DEIL believes the IIMs have to play their part too. "If it's a joint endeavour, it is only fair that we live up to the name by working together,'' they say. The problem now is who'll make the first move?

- Compiled from the Indian media

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