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North Carolina, IBM Lock Horns

An $80 million contract to build a gigantic data repository for over 1 million students and teachers in North Carolina has ended acrimoniously, turning into a war of words between contractor IBM Corp. and state officials.

We have told IBM that we’re terminating the project for failure to perform,” says Vanessa Jeter, public information officer at the state’s Department of Public Instruction. She would not reveal specific details.

The initiative, called the North Carolina Window of Information on Student Education (NC WISE), is a Web-based system for collating and analyzing student data, such as report cards and transcripts. But the system -- developed by IBM -- has been dogged by systems crashes and major delays.

There was no delay, however, in IBM's response to the charges. “The state-managed databases that fed information into NC WISE have experienced frequent outages,” counters IBM spokeswoman Alise McNeill. The hardware giant fulfilled its contractual obligations to North Carolina, but the state, “continued to ask IBM to perform work outside of the contract without payment.”

North Carolina, which hosts NC WISE in its own IT division, has so far coughed up $27 million to IBM. McNeill claims that the vendor is still owed "a significant amount" of money -- in the "millions" -- for work already completed.

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