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Digital Transformation: Government leverages Sify support for its online recruitment exam

May 29, 2017

Digital Transformation: Government lever...

By Debanjan Kumar, President and Business Head, Application Services, Sify Technologies

India stands poised on the cusp of a digital revolution that promises to transform the lives of 1.2 billion Indians.In line with this vision, the country’s largest recruitment body for government jobs decided to go online for conducting all major recruitment examinations.

This government agency conducts examinations to recruit people for all central government ministries and various government departments. Over 20 million candidates apply every year from across the country for these examinations. Identifying the right talent for the right job is a challenging and time-consuming task. Until recently, the entire process was a pen-and-paper-based model, where the recruitment process sometimes ran into years.

In fact, the decision to bring about a massive digital transformation in this space was largely guided by the vision to make the entire examination process smoother and ensure that the results are declared in real time, thus eliminating the long wait.

In a bid to make this digital transformation a reality, the government agency signed on Sify as its technology partner. Sify offers end-to-end talent management solutions, including online examinations through its unique online test engine called iTest.

The government agency, with assistance from Sify, achieved a significant milestone during January-February 2017, when its examination became one of the largest ever online examination to have been successfully completed in the world. About 6.45 million candidates appeared in 76 batches across 407 test centres in 101 cities during the course of a month.

Extending support

To conduct this exam seamlessly, Sify used its own state-of-the-art data centre infrastructure, exam servers, network, biometric readers and webcams. Over 1,700 servers with 1,200 dongles, more than 2,500 biometric devices and webcams, 2,500 plus biometric operators, 826 exam controllers, 6,900 invigilators, 440 Sify exam supervisors and over 2,500 security guards were deployed for this huge task. With the support of this infrastructure, 76 batches of exams were conducted with an average batch size of 84,000 candidates and a peak batch size of 93,000. Further, three batches were conducted per day, for most of the days, apart from the first three days when two batches per day were conducted.

Practice tests and training demos in Hindi and English were uploaded on the government agency’s website two weeks before the test commencement, for candidates to familiarise themselves with the new process.

Plugging the gaps

The online exam conducted by Sify eliminated issues such as question paper leakage, security and candidate impersonation. The entire examination was monitored/videotaped locally through CCTVs and centrally from the government agency’s control room, as well as from Sify’s data centre in Chennai. Sify personnel were also deployed on the ground at all exam centers. A reputed security agency was engaged for frisking candidates to ensure that no debarred items were carried inside the centre. Biometric registration, along with photographs, were taken before the exam and compared with the admit card to ensure only genuine candidates appeared for the exam. During the exam, each candidate’s photograph was displayed on the right-hand corner of the computer screen so that invigilators could see that only the real candidates were taking the exam. Each question paper was made unique by randomising the questions, answer series, etc. Post the exam, the automated result evaluation eliminated chances of result tampering and forgery.

Besides, during all the exam days, the team ran a pre-exam checklist to ensure that there were no technical or infrastructure issues during the exam. These activities included checking all servers, workstations, biometric devices, non-IT infrastructure like UPS and DG sets, and coordinating with security guards to facilitate candidate check-ins. The Sify team on the field was supported by a 60-member back-end helpdesk and a technical team to mitigate any on-the-ground issues immediately.

Desired results

Months of exhaustive and diligent planning were expended to ensure zero-defect execution. As a result, Sify not only completed all examinations on time, but also the rate of infrastructure or technology failure was remarkably small. In an online examination scenario, especially with the sensitivity and visibility associated with government exams, the service-level agreement is always 100 per cent, as even 99.9 per cent is not good enough. Sify’s success is demonstrated by the fact that only, an astonishingly low, 0.000015 per cent candidates had to be called back for a re-examination for technical reason.


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