In the quest to create an equivalent ecosystem to beat the monopoly of the Big Tech companies, Indian companies, as well as the government, is stepping up big time. After Koo did a coup by taking on Twitter, the latest to join the bandwagon is an app named ‘Sandes’ which is being dubbed as an Aatmanirbhar, “Made-in-India’ alternative to the Facebook-owned WhatsApp.
The Indian government had unveiled its plans last year that it was working on a WhatsApp-chat-like feature app, and it appears that ‘Sandes’ is now ready as it is being tested by ministry officials.
According to a Business Standards report, the officials in some ministries have already started using the GIMS or short form for Government Instant Messaging System. Last year, several reports claimed that the government developed chatting app may be called GIMS. However, it turns out that the messaging app has now got a desi name – ‘Sandes’.
The homepage of the government portal www.gims.gov.in shows the app’s name and a logo bearing Ashoka Chakra. The sign-in option specifies that Sandes is presently available for authorised government officials.
The government is yet to make any announcement regarding its official launch but given WhatsApp’s deteriorating reputation after the platform forced its revised privacy policies down the throat of its users in January – Sandes is expected to be rolled out soon.
Whatsapp’s updated user policy gives Mark Zuckerberg the right to share user’s information with Facebook and other third-party apps. What is worse about this new policy is that the new update comes with a condition that if the user refuses to share data with Facebook, they will have to quit WhatsApp. In other words, the messaging application is forcing the users to accept a policy that exploits their personal data.
With government officials using WhatsApp as well, there is always a fear of state secrets and other confidential information leaking out in the public domain — despite WhatsApp boasting of end-to-end encryption. The Sandes app is expected to remove that problem and help the government officials as well as the public to chat freely and securely without any strings attached.
The Koo app has already been download more than a million times and boasts of several high profile Cabinet ministers and ministries that have shifted to the app in no time. Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Electronics and IT Minister and Union Minister Piyush Goyal being the few notable faces with several government departments such as the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs, and MyGovIndia also taking the plunge.
Since the outcome of the US Presidential elections, the big tech companies including Twitter have had their confidence bolstered by the succession of a left-leaning Democrat party, as they banned the former US President — thereby setting a precedent that had never been set before. The Indian government quietly took note of the fact, and to avoid any similar situation where Twitter could act as the Judge, Jury, and executioner — started preparing a contingency plan.
The exodus of Twitteratis to Koo is a well-planned, elaborate move to keep Twitter in check and simultaneously create a platform that can give competition to Twitter in an otherwise monopolistic market.
Similarly, the government is now eyeing the big market of WhatsApp which has become a staple app in almost every Indian’s phone. The need to have desi alternatives to Silicon Valley companies like Sandes is the need of the hour and the government is actively working towards it.