Vaccine portal faces glitches

Senior citizens getting registered for vaccination at Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital in Delhi on Monday.   | Photo Credit: MOORTHY RV

Eager senior citizens waiting for their turn to register for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday had technology come in their way as the CoWIN portal showed errors or displayed a message that the server was busy.

While the government claimed that over one million registrations were done in the first few hours, many took to Twitter to express problems that they faced with the portal.

Constant battle

With a move towards digitisation, teething problems have become common place and often, portals or apps are unable to deal with the volumes leading to disappointment and complaints. Sanchit Vir Gogia, founder and CEO of Greyhound Research, a digital and tech advisory, said that in a large country like India, to champion any large human-based programme like the vaccination drive is an expensive and time-consuming task that is a constant battle between time and availability.

“In a situation like this we cannot wait too long and as soon as the application of website is even reasonably stable, you end up launching it and then scale it up further,” Mr. Gogia said. He added that it is a one-time use service and gives no merit to overburden resources. If someone cannot register themselves today, they will be able to do so tomorrow. However, he added that there was scope to do better which required both capital and time.

Sanjeev Singh, founder and head of the Institute of Informatics and Communication, Delhi University, that recently developed the Open Book Examination system for Delhi University that received many complaints at the start, but was ultimately successful, says that sometimes developers cannot envisage all types of user cases particularly when there is so much diversity in user behaviour.

“What is usually the case is that something needs to be delivered immediately and we do not have the time to test it out properly by launching a beta version or testing it on volumes as per standard practice,” Mr. Singh said.

He said, for example, when Google started its email services, they ran it for about five-six years in the beta version to understand user behaviour and functionality, but here, due to time constraints, we develop a service because of its immediate need.

Speaking about the experience of students facing glitches while taking their examinations, Mr. Singh said that it was developed overnight for such a huge number of users and was not experienced by anybody including the faculty or the students before its launch. “We got a lot of criticism that it was not working initially, and the reasons are diverse. But ultimately, it was a success and other universities have contacted us so that they can also use the system to conduct examinations,” Mr. Singh said.

Pressure to roll out products to meet a deadline sometimes shifts the focus of developers towards delivering a product according to a client’s brief before testing whether it is user-friendly, says Jatin Ahuja, head developer at Iarani, a digital transformation agency. “User testing is the most important type of testing as when a developer is testing the application, they are unaware of how a user is going to use the product and the real problem starts there. The programming team can deliver a product but without testing, there are bound to be glitches,” Mr. Ahuja says. He adds that as a developer, he often insists on user testing and rolling out of a product in batches so that any problems that users are facing can be ironed out.

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Printable version | Apr 20, 2021 5:28:51 AM |

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