Amid fierce debates about privacy on WhatsApp, the government is planning a completely new approach – its own version of the messaging app.
Sources at the Ministry of Electronics and Information and Technology (MeITY) have confirmed to NDTV that two such applications are being tested in beta stages. It was codenamed Samvad and Sandes, “chat” and “message”, respectively.
“These apps are developed entirely by the Indian government. It will be an instant messaging app like WhatsApp,” said a MeITY official. NDTV has learned that the government has plans for an app called GIMS – Government Instant Messaging Service – only for Indian government employees to communicate.
“There has been a long felt need within the government to have our own, independent and self-owned instant messaging service. Development of these applications began long before the current WhatsApp debate,” the source said.
The biggest advantage of this application will be that “we will never have to worry about data being stolen by big technology and used for commercial gain”.
However, its acceptance among people can only be measured after a public presentation – it is not yet clear whether it will be both Samvad and Sandes or just one. Sources say that once the beta test is over, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to dedicate the application to the country.
Sandes is available in the Apple store for a few people to test. It has a blue-and-white interface with Ashok Chakra as its logo. For now, only the state authorizes and verifies its employees.
“It may be entirely possible that one of these apps will remain for the domestic consumption of government employees and not available to the public,” the source said.
The leak of WhatsApp chats involving many well-known people and well-known faces in recent months has contributed to the general concern about privacy and security. Moreover, since the platform has become an increasingly useful tool in business ventures of all levels.
Meanwhile, new applications are being developed by the National Information Center (NIC) under the title of Digital India. Operating under MeITY, NIC provides support system for the provision of government IT services and Digital India initiatives.
Earlier this month, a Bengaluru-based startup launched Koo, a Twitter-like microblogging platform. Recognized as a star example of the centre’s Make In India initiative, Koo immediately attracted key government officials and weapons as a user. Within five days of its launch, the user base had risen to over 900,000. This happened amid Twitter’s confrontation with the Indian government over freedom of expression and local laws.
“All these initiatives are Aatmanirbhar one source said, referring to Sandes.
The timeline for the rollout of this app remains unclear.