India’s Lunar age: Putting IT body shops to domestic use!

Earlier this week I have been trying to follow up on the launch of Chandrayaan, India’s first moon bound satellite. Being from the old country I had a natural interest specially since I think I have finally managed to overcome the cynicism of past and trade it in for a more hopeful future. So I started poking around the ISRO website to find a surprisingly dated  website design with hardly enough information that one would expect to accompany such a ground breaking event for India.

I tried to watch the live video broadcast in a little window and just when the countdown reached zero the stream started to choke up and the next shot was the camera point into the clouds. I have Comcast broadband on my side and I have rarely had issues with streaming. It left me utterly disappointed. Later on I went looking on the web and ended up finding television footages that captured some more detailed video of the launch event. I do not know if they were using PC webcams for their internet broadcast, but it left me wishing much more.

Then after the launch I kept going back to the ISRO website site  to see if there is any status update. There was none with the exception of a scrolling ticker on the top. Even this morning when I went and checked the press release page there has been no new press release posted about the launch. There are two press releases and the most recent one is from 2006. Ok, the press release section on the main ISRO page is up to date. Then they need to link the Chandrayaan press release page back to this page or remove it. Soon after the launch happened, I was expecting more current up to date postings, discussions and may be blog style status update entries on their site. May be I am too taken up by the web 2.0, video game, CNN instant polling culture. May be I was looking for stuff too soon, but I am confident they can do way better. Navigating around the ISRO site it looks like a hodge podge collection of individual child sites and disconnected information sets, at different degree of maintenance. I guess I would not have gone out of my way to notice all this if I was not eagerly trying to find out more about the launch on Tuesday night.

I was disappointed with this lack of sophistication and style when it comes to adoption of information technology (at least the part we externals can see) by premiere domestic organizations like ISRO when at the same time their backyard is full of army of IT grunts toiling away doing all the heavy lifting for IT projects from all over the world.

I looked at NASA’s website just for rough comparison. I know it is probably like comparing apples and oranges if one is only focused on the level of technological sophistication. But I am not looking from that perspective. You do not have to be the science and technology giant to have a decent website and information delivery architecture in this century. It is a shame that ISRO (and other premiere domestic organizations I am sure) cannot tap into this huge pool of talent and do something about it. These days public information campaign is as much important as the core competency that one builds one’s business on.

I know it is probably politics and nepotism that always seem to get in the way with government projects in India. I know I probably have a very simplistic view of the situation. But I can only describe and feel aggravated about what I can see, or cannot see. The IT companies we keep hearing about all the time have been raking in profits from overseas contracts, while the domestic information infrastructure slowly crawls up one step at a time. May be the economic downturn will force these IT shops and engineers to focus more of their attention inward and do something about this problem.

My gripe is not really aimed at ISRO; it is mainly about the disconnect I see between all the great IT industry boom stories and fortunes being made, and the domestic IT reality on the ground, everytime I visit there. Things are of course moving, but I expected things to be much further along by now given the talent and labor pool. Of course one just needs to follow to money to see where the problem is.

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