The disaster called Obamacare may be the best thing for American techies in a long time. Its implementation is being increasingly linked to slumdog sweatshops and Indian outsourcers. First came the Huffington Post, in this article:
CHICAGO- While everyone debates the policy points of ObamaCare, few understand that billions of dollars in IT contracts are wrapped inside the law. To meet federal mandates, states must upgrade their legacy Medicaid Management Information Systems (MMIS). These IT contracts are some of the largest awards in state history.
Last week, Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn became national news for circumventing a three year procurement process on up to $190 million in no-bid IT contracts. Now we find that one of the largest bid-contract MMIS awards will outsource state jobs to India.
In June, Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn's administration awarded a ten year $71.4 million staffing contract to Cognizant Technology Solutions. Cognizant ranks in the national top 10 for procuring H-1B visa workers. Evidence shows that the company is staffing operational headquarters in Chennai and Bangalore, India for the Illinois work...
Then The Atlantic piled on with an article entitled "Behind the 'Bad Indian Coder'" that, while not directly related to Healthcare.gov, was timely:
It started, as many deep philosophical Reddit debates do, with a one-line statement, “Got a contract to fix some outsourced Indian PHP code,” accompanied by an image macro of Toy Story characters Woody and Buzz Lightyear gazing off into the distance. “Security flaws,” the overlain, blocky white text reads. “Security flaws everywhere.”
Moments later, other developers chimed in with their own grievances.
“Code from India can be truly awful if you work with most companies,” another Redditor said. “A lot of them treat programming as a task to be completed with numbers and fire those that can't work fast enough, rather than a task requiring quality where people are educated to avoid mistakes and fired only as a last resort.”
“I am currently working with outsourced code,” said another. “I never knew how bad it could get.”
The thread bounced around nerd circles for a bit before dying down, but it was just the latest example of the perennial grumbling by American programmers who are assigned to work on code that was crafted in Delhi or Mumbai. Indeed, as America has increasingly relied on Indians to program our software on the cheap, we’ve also increasingly griped that cultural differences seem to penetrate even the formulas and algorithms that one would think would be the same in every country.
A few years ago, American web developer John Larson wrote that outsourcing code has caused him, among other woes:
- real-time communication made inconvenient and response times made long by the time zone difference,
- a reduced sense of accountability, commitment and partnership inherent in the long distance relationship,
- and text like “Link will be sent to your mail for to update your Password.” sprinkled throughout public facing parts of the website, which just doesn’t give your customers the best impression of you and your business.
The accusations often incite Indian developers to jump in to defend themselves. Sri Rangan, a developer from Delhi, said he was offended by the Reddit thread, arguing that a combination of living conditions, education, and the country’s economic structure handicaps Indian developers so severely that they can’t be expected to compete with 26-year-old Stanford graduates.
He points out that while American coders ride private, Wi-Fi-equipped shuttles to work, their Indian counterparts sometimes commute hours to their city-center jobs from slum areas. And for much of India’s recent history, working in IT and software development was the surest ticket out of poverty, so the field likely attracted some young people who were more interested in simply putting food on the table than perfecting recursions.
“Maybe, just maybe, there could be a correlation between quality of life and quality of work?” Rangan wrote.
Of course, there’s a reason that Indian code always seems to be the target: The country dominates as a destination for Americans’ outsourced IT work—taking up 65 percent of the U.S. outsourced IT market in 2008—all carried out by an educated, English-speaking young people who toil for 30 to 40 percent of the cost of an American developer. Some estimates hold that IBM now has more workers in India than in the U.S.
Meanwhile, problems are always bound to arise when a crucial chunk of a company’s workforce operates off-site, as Marissa Mayer might attest, especially when there are time zones and linguistic barriers at play.
Indian coders, it seems, have partly become victims of their own success—offering such a good deal to American CEOs to do a job just as well (or at least almost as well) as similarly-trained Americans, that their code has become pervasive. Over the past few decades, Indian programmers have done everything from create a virtual Oscar figure for the 2004 Academy Awards to ensure the millennium bug wouldn’t kill us all at the end of 1999. With so much Indian output powering our technology, some of the work is bound to be sub-par.
“Working with legacy code, regardless of how well it is written, will always be a challenge,” Rangan wrote.
When Vasu Kulkarni, an entrepreneur who grew up in India but went to college at the University of Pennsylvania, launched his online sports-analytics company in the U.S. a few years ago, the entire development team was initially based in Bangalore. Recently, though, he closed down his entire India office and moved all the programming onshore...
Another blogger nailed it on the head with this post:
It’s another slap in the face to American software engineers, two of the main companies that implemented the faulty crashing Obamacare exchanges – Infosys and Cognizant – are American subsidiaries of Indian body shopper and outsourcing companies. In fact, Cognizant and Infosys were the top users of H-1B visas in America. The H-1B visa, the visa which allows low level Indian programmers with fake degrees to get US citizenship, is used to throw better qualified American engineers into the streets or drive down pay. Imagine if we fought the high cost of doctors salaries by bringing in 577,428 (the number of H-1B applications approved in 2012) Indian doctors who took a two week course and worked for 20 dollars an hour.
The GAO has conducted three studies of the H-1B visa and each time found extensive fraud in more than 25% of all applications. And that was only obvious fraud in depth examination would probably expose that many of these applicants either had no degree at all or went to a dubious or fraudulent fly by night university. Even if they have a valid degree often their entire resumes are falsified. So many companies that have fired their American engineers and replaced them with cheaper Indian programmers find out all too fast that they either go bankrupt or struggle (Dell is the latest case in point). (Note: Xerox was one of the few American companies which was awarded work as well)
Infosys was awarded the 50 million Washington DC exchange contract and at least four other states. With defense work slowing, the Indian companies are making a big push to own the exchanges as these promise work for years. But there’s a problem. Programming the exchanges is quite complicated, involving interfacing with legacy Medicare systems and if not done correctly they may seem to work but fall apart as soon as large numbers of users begin using them...
Speaking of Infosys, it appears that some people are SUING THE SHIT OUT OF THEM:
A class-action lawsuit filed in August against Infosys, alleging that the company has engaged in systematic, company-wide discrimination against Americans and others who are not of South Asian descent, has been amended to include two former Infosys employees, and a contractor working under Infosys’s management, who have come forward to allege that they, too, suffered discrimination.
As I wrote at the time, the original lawsuit, filed on Aug. 1 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, was brought on behalf of Brenda Koehler, an American IT project manager in Milwaukee who was allegedly denied employment at Infosys because she is not of South Asian descent. The lawyers who filed it were subsequently contacted by two former Infosys employees who gave similar accounts of discrimination: Layla Bolten, a software analysis and testing specialist in Dickerson, Md.; and Gregory Handloser, a sales manager in Sarasota, Fla. Also contacting the lawyers was contractor Kelly Parker, an IT help desk support specialist in Minocqua, Wis. The lawyers amended the lawsuit to include the allegations from these individuals, and filed it on Sept. 27...
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