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I know what you’re doing

Technology can now help your mom or dad track you in college. So, think twice. Gonna bunk class or miss that test?
College days are fun, don’t you agree? More so, if your home’s far away from college and the authorities and your parents have remote possibilities of meeting, but for the occasional contact through the progress report.

But all that could change, tough luck. Your dad or mum could police you with ease, and get even daily updates on your life — whether you are bunking class or sweating your soul out for the grades. And the enabler that makes all this happen, or culprit as you might be tempted to say, is technology.

But how is this coming about? Our story starts with Senthil Kumar. After completing his schooling, Senthil Kumar moved to the city to pursue higher studies. City life, though, was not easy for these youngsters whose parents were uneducated and would not agree to relocate themselves for the sake of their son.

But young Senthil was determined to take on the challenge. He qualified to become an engineer. After a brief stint in a rubber company, he upgraded his skills to join a software firm. Within a couple of years, Senthil got an offer to work in Japan, probably a turning point in his life. After getting due recognition for his talent in a foreign land, Senthil decided to return home and promote his own company — Palpap Ichinichi Software International Ltd (PISIL) in 1997.

Within two years, the company managed to establish an international presence and through the JETRO (Japanese External Trade Organization) started developing projects for Japanese clients as well.

Senthil, though, was keen to make his parents understand that technology was not all and only about computers, but how simple instruments like a telephone could provide a wealth of information. “My parents, like many others, are uneducated. They cannot read or write, but they know to use the telephone. I decided to develop a technology that would help such parents in monitoring their wards without much effort. The IVRS (Interactive Voice Response System) came in handy. It is old wine in a new bottle,” he concedes.

But old wine or not, it’s bang on target. For, PISIL’s research studies have indicated that there are more than 300 universities and over 1.8 lakh schools and colleges in India. “Though most boast of hi-tech lab facilities, less than 5 per cent of these institutions use an IVRS alert system to communicate to the parents, staff, management and students,” he says.

Right now, educational institutions keep in touch with parents through the report card. But “our research findings show that only 8 to 15 parents out of 1,000 respond favourably to such mailers. There is a huge communication gap. We decide to plug this by using a system similar to the one used by the Railways and banks,” says Senthil.

Thus was born PISIL’s product Inspro Plus. Under this system, the parents of each candidate are given a PIN (Personal Information Number). All they have to do is call the telephone number of the college or university their son or daughter attends and punch in the PIN number. The system, says Senthil, is user-friendly and easy to operate/understand. “Soon after entering the PIN, the system automatically fetches the concerned student’s profile. It then asks the user to press `1' for attendance, `2' for marks, `3' for fees status, `4' for conduct and so on. In addition, parents can also leave messages to the Management or to their wards, which is conveyed automatically to the respective person. There are also outbound calls when students absent themselves without a leave letter. It does a typical policing act,” says Senthil. Earlier, not everyone would be able to meet the Heads of
institution to express their grievance. But with this system in place, you can actually talk/ leave a message for them, he says.
PISIL has introduced Inspro Plus at Anna University in Tamil Nadu and Kakatiya University in Andhra Pradesh, apart from implementing it in over 100 schools and colleges in the Southern States.
The company installs the complete software at the campus, enters all relevant information about the student for all 15 modules, trains the staff members and creates user responsibility and confidentiality, aids in generating over 300 reports — department-wise, for ISO certification, AICTE, University and NBA reporting purpose.
Here’s an actual instance of a user testing the system out. Soon after the software was installed in a college in Coimbatore, an illiterate farmer, Parameswaran, decided to try it out. Earlier, Parameswaran used to keep in touch with his son by calling him twice a week from a local booth. And then he received communication from the college his son attended on the Inspro Plus facility. Paramesaran took the letter to the pharmacy in his village and got it read out. He was excited about trying out the new system. He dialled the college number from a local booth and keyed in the PIN, and hey presto, a new world of information opened to him. He could now `hear’ his son’s `progress report.’ Also, since the information is available on the phone in the user’s native language, there is no barrier to understanding. Interestingly, parents are keen on a day-to-day update as the system is easy to use — just dial the college and hear the report in the language of your choice.
Visibly excited, Parameswaran says he now can read his son’s horoscope (meaning performance, regularity to class, etc) without seeking outside help.
Senthil concedes that this kind of information sharing could also be offered over the Internet but points out those vast sections of people live in villages and do not understand the power of the Net as such.
He says a closer watch over students’ behavioral pattern has revealed that 60 per cent of students are concerned about the future and their studies, 20 per cent attend institutes just to get a degree, and the rest have no direction. “If the parents of such students can be alerted, it would go a long way in shaping their future.”
So, the next time you hear the bell ring, don’t be caught dreaming. It could be a message from your college to your parents on your performance.