The great online struggle

With the online processes making inroads in our country, we do have come a long way, doing away with scores of offline painstaking processes. Ticket booking, recharge of devices, status tracking, shopping couldn’t have been simpler  Still, just like in our Hindi movies, a lot is left to be desired with the online stuff. In some areas, it has proved to be a double edged sword, thanks to some of our Stone-Age irrational laws, negligible development of associated fields & thoughtless migration of processes from offline to online mode.

Solve other problems first

We need to understand that after going online, our problems will not get solved overnight. Common sense needs to prevail and precede before we make things online.

The admission circus
The online admission process was supposed to make things simpler, wasn’t it ? Not really. 2 problems still exist. First, we need to understand that students don’t just reside in Tier I/II cities but scores of them reside in villages, wherein continuous electricity supply still remains a dream. Nobody can really expect all of them to fill up online marathon forms. No clear-cut guidelines and all form fields getting reset all of a sudden if power/internet breaks down in between, only add to the woes. Centres to help students in filling up the form are too far and too few. The rudeness, reluctance, lack of sufficient knowledge of staff over there is a different story altogether. Smartphones also cannot be used as they are still costlier, short battery life is a well-known problem, government is too reluctant to develop admission related apps and anyway we Indians still prefer laptop/desktop over phone for doing important transactions. As a result, people remain a little wary when it comes to online admission process. Entrance exams like CAT are doing reasonably well after going online, but the uncertainty over the fate of half filled answer paper before electricity/ internet calls it a day is a much bigger concern there.
Secondly, the admission process is really not online. Only 2 modules: Filling up the form and status checking are online. A process in which students still have to stand in serpentine queues for multiple checks of the same set of documents , cannot really be called online. There is huge scope for optimization here, without compromising on quality of background checks. This applies not just to admission , but also to application of passport,bank account and host of other government id proofs.

Independent but not mutually exclusive.
For a married woman, changing the surname on all id proofs is a Herculean task. Agencies issuing passport, driving license, PAN card, ration card, voter id card, bank accounts, mutual fund/insurance schemes work independently of each other. To add to it, at any agency, 4-5 documents are required. As of now, no one document has authority to establish a person’s identity beyond doubt. If say 4 agencies accept the proofs issued by other 3, then mistake by any one of them will percolate to others and the very purpose of detailed, painful offline background check is anyway lost !! Some part of some of these processes may be online , but there is no use when a person still has to anyway run from pillar to post for each…

The side-effects

Daily I receive a handful of emails from unknown marketing firms marketing all products from homes to cockroach killers. I myself don’t know how many people in this world know my email id, mobile number, postal address & other details shared by me knowingly or unknowingly on plethora of online sites. Transparency is a big concern not just to social networking sites but to other websites as well. Each person needs to have copyright on his online profile. Yes, each site has some sort of disclaimer policies in place (We anyway have no choice but to “Accept” them before proceeding ahead), but we really don’t know whether our profile is being misused or not…

Perennial problems like electricity supply will not be solved in the near future. Irrational application processes and problems due to lack of proper migration plan are created by us. Security and transparency concerns while online need to be addressed to satisfactorily. All these niggling issues need to be tackled first before we really become digital, in the true sense of the term. Else, the perception towards online usage will not undergo a changeover as much as desired.

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