Colleges find order on mandatory websites fishy

Encouraging colleges to adopt technology for transparency in administration, it seems, has come as an opportunity for developing potential family business in the Department of Technical Education (DTE).

The department recently issued a circular to all the technical institutes in the state, including polytechnics and engineering colleges, directing them to create a website for their institution. It mandated colleges to continuously update the website and put in place an 'Integrated Educational Management Information System,’ as per which, colleges have to upload details of admission, examination, curriculum and other administrative details. The institutions have to ensure a “paperless office,” the circular stated.

Further, the colleges were asked to make use of the 'library fund' for the expenses incurred for website design, domain name registration, web space and web hosting. The website has to be formatted in the prescribed manner that would help the department to link the colleges' websites to its own. For those who already have their websites, related information was to be sent to the joint director of the department. Any college that did not create a website would be liable for action. The circular has been issued on the basis of an AICTE direction in April.

Promotional mail

But, what followed this circular raised suspicion among college principals. Soon after this direction, principals received a mail by a Bangalore-based IT company, SHLR Technosoft, advertising its services for website hosting and design. (A copy of the mail is available with Deccan Herald). The mail was sent to principals of about 300 colleges. It reads: “We are a leading hosting and design company in India. We are (sic) design and hosting your college/institute web site (sic) with the best price.” The features offered being unlimited space and unlimited bandwidth among others. It turned out that the company is managed by Ravi Talawar, son of DTE Director H U Talawar.

College managements wondered how the company got hold of their email ids.
“Obviously,  it was a case of misuse of power. The company could not have got mail access to all the colleges without official support,” principal of a polytechnic in Bangalore told Deccan Herald, requesting anonymity. Some principals said there was no need for them to outsource website hosting, with most of them having fully-functional computer science departments. Colleges would also want to give their students the experience of designing the website, they added.

‘Nothing wrong’

But, Ravi Talawar did not see anything wrong in it.

“Have we forced them to subscribe to our services? We are just like any other competitors in the market. We try to offer our best price for customers. As long as the department has not forced this on anyone, there is nothing wrong in it,” he said. For government colleges, the company is offering the service at Rs 3,000 per annum and charging Rs 500 as domain registration charge. The price for private colleges would be more, beginning from Rs 5,000.

Incidentally, it was Ravi Talwar who designed the software for the Karnataka Examinations Authority’s online admissions this year. He claimed he had offered it for free to the government.

The company has already received offers from five colleges for website creation, he stated. Some of the colleges that already have a website sent their details to the department a month ago and, they have not heard from them ever since.

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