Representational image. (Bloomberg)
Representational image. (Bloomberg)

Amid push for Indian apps, an alternative to WhatsApp in the works

While three applications have been around for at least a year, an official familiar with the matter said that the Prime Minister may put his weight behind one of them after the presentations are completed
By Deeksha Bhardwaj
UPDATED ON FEB 23, 2021 12:04 PM IST

Three domestic mobile messaging applications, two developed by the government and one by the army, are likely to be pitched to the Prime Minister Office (PMO) as an alternative to the popular messaging application, WhatsApp, as privacy concerns shroud its latest privacy policy update, officials familiar with the matter said.

The three mobile applications include Secure Application for Internet (SAI), developed by the army and launched in October last year; Sandes, developed by the National Informatics Centre with the first version being released in August last year, and SAMVAD, developed by the Centre for Development of Telematics.

While all three applications have been around for at least a year, an official familiar with the matter said that the Prime Minister may put his weight behind one of the applications after the presentations are completed. “All the three applications will co-exist,” the official said. “After presentations are done, PMO will decide the future course, which may involve PM pitching for one for secure messaging.”

Also Read | WhatsApp to launch public outreach exercise to push policy

HT reached out to the PMO, but did not receive a response immediately despite several attempts.

The push for domestic apps comes at a time when WhatsApp is in the crosshairs of the government over its privacy policy update. Critics have said it would allow WhatsApp to share more data with its parent company, Facebook, without giving users the opportunity to opt-out of it. The ministry of electronics and information technology on January 19 wrote to WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart expressing “strong concerns” over the policy and asked the company to roll it back. Last week, the Supreme Court also issued a notice to WhatsApp, asking it to explain its plans, with a remark that Indians highly value their privacy.

Homegrown apps have an advantage over companies such as WhatsApp as the data is stored locally in servers, which is considered more secure.

An army official familiar with the matter said that the SAI mobile application was almost out of the trial stage and would eventually be opened up to other government departments. At present, the mobile application has 18,000 users and is not open to the public. “The application was developed in June 2018,” the official said. “It is very likely to be pitched as an alternative to WhatsApp in the near future.”

In a press statement issued in October last year, the army had said that the application supports “end to end secure voice, text and video calling services for Android platform over internet”.

“The model is similar to commercially available messaging applications like WhatsApp, Telegram, SAMVAD and GIMS and utilises end to end encryption messaging protocol. SAI scores over on security features with local in-house servers and coding which can be tweaked as per requirements,” the statement said.

It added that the application had been vetted by a CERT-in empanelled auditor and the Army Cyber Group, and would be utilised pan Army to “facilitate secure messaging within the service”.

The army official, quoted above, added that the advantages of the app include server located within the country, a complete command and control of the eco-system and integrated indigenous encryption algorithms.

The second application up for a presentation is SAMVAD, which, at present, is being tested by the central government and state government agencies.

A second official familiar with the matter said that the app has collected feedback to create an ecosystem that helps ease organisational issues for the government. It also offers multiple levels of encryption, including user-end encryption. Unlike the other apps, SAMVAD also provides a separate dashboard where users can choose to access news regarding a particular subject.

“The app also has options such as disappearing messages and confidential message,” the second official. “There has been very positive feedback from the agencies.” It also offers non-forwardable messages. Organisations can use the interface to create a group for seamless interaction.

The official added that the greatest advantage is that since the application has been designed internally, any changes required can be made easily. “Moreover, the app has been designed for heavy load. Tomorrow if it has one million users, it won’t crash. The data is stored in the country, which ensures utmost security for departments that need to keep data completely confidential.”

The third mobile application in the fray is Sandes, earlier known as Government Instant Messaging System (GIMS). Developed by the National Informatics Centre, the application also provides end-to-end encryption and in-house servers. All the information on GIMS will be stored in a government-based cloud. The application was launched last year and is still in the trial stage. The first official mentioned above said that Sandes has nearly 80,000 users.

A third official familiar with the matter said that the government was closely monitoring the app’s progress.

On Monday, Sandes was number seven on the Apple app store in the social networking category. According to the information provided on the app store, NIC has declared that Sandes collects contact information, user content, identifiers, diagnostics and other data, and links it to the user’s identity. “Sandes combines all the features of govTalk and GIMS,” a fourth official said. “In terms of alerts and sharing of data and information, Sandes is exactly like WhatsApp and a lot of officials are using it to communicate.”

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Minister of Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar(AFP)
Minister of Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar(AFP)

Social media content blocking provision not new, clarifies Centre

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Poulomi Ghosh
UPDATED ON FEB 27, 2021 09:56 PM IST
The provision for the same has been there since 2009, the I&B ministry clarified.
Close
Ghulam Nabi Azad retired from the Upper House on February 15.(PTI)
Ghulam Nabi Azad retired from the Upper House on February 15.(PTI)

Ghulam Nabi Azad says 'will continue my fight for J&K statehood'

PTI, Jammu
UPDATED ON FEB 27, 2021 09:06 PM IST
"Till my last breath, I will continue my services for the nation and will continue my fight for the rights of people," Azad said.
Close
The government CVCs will inoculate for free with the central government bearing the full cost of vaccination..(PTI)
The government CVCs will inoculate for free with the central government bearing the full cost of vaccination..(PTI)

Which private hospitals are Covid-19 vaccine centres? Govt releases list

By hindustantimes.com | Written by Deepali Sharma, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 27, 2021 09:05 PM IST
Around 10,000 private hospitals empanelled under Ayushman Bharat PMJAY, more than 600 hospitals empanelled under CGHS.
Close
Prime Minister Narendra Modi(PTI)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi(PTI)

News updates from HT: PM Modi to address 'Mann Ki Baat' tomorrow

PUBLISHED ON FEB 27, 2021 08:48 PM IST
Here are today’s top news, analysis and opinion. Know all about the latest news and other news updates from Hindustan Times.
Close
Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria flew a Mirage 2000, the aircraft that was used for bombing Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) targets in Pakistan’s Balakot on February 26, 2019. (ANI PHOTO).
Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria flew a Mirage 2000, the aircraft that was used for bombing Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) targets in Pakistan’s Balakot on February 26, 2019. (ANI PHOTO).

Squadron that carried out Balakot operation makes long-range practice strike

Edited by Prashasti Singh, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 27, 2021 08:36 PM IST
In another event to commemorate the event, Indian Air Force (IAF) chief RKS Bhadauria on Saturday flew in a Mirage 2000, part of a multi-aircraft sortie, with the same squadron pilots.
Close
IAF has released a video of a precision strike carried out by Mirage 2000s against a dummy target in Rajasthan. The strike was carried out by members of the squadron that carried out the Balakot air strike.(IAF video/screen grab)
IAF has released a video of a precision strike carried out by Mirage 2000s against a dummy target in Rajasthan. The strike was carried out by members of the squadron that carried out the Balakot air strike.(IAF video/screen grab)

On Balakot anniv, IAF video shows jets bombing target with Spice 2000 bombs

By Rahul Singh | Edited by Sohini Sarkar, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 27, 2021 09:45 PM IST
  • The IAF’s Mirage 2000s hit three targets in Balakot with five Israeli-origin Spice 2000 bombs with penetrator warheads that allowed them to pierce through the rooftops before exploding inside to cause maximum damage.
Close
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses during The India Toy Fair 2021 through video conferencing in New Delhi on Saturday. (ANI Photo)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses during The India Toy Fair 2021 through video conferencing in New Delhi on Saturday. (ANI Photo)

PM Modi to address the nation on Mann Ki Baat tomorrow at 11am

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Arpan Rai, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON FEB 27, 2021 08:11 PM IST
Earlier this month, the Prime Minister had invited people of the country to share their inspiring stories in the field of art, culture and tourism.
Close
Jammu: Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Kapil Sibal, Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Raj Babbar during a 'Shanti Sammelan' event in Jammu on Saturday.(PTI)
Jammu: Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Kapil Sibal, Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Raj Babbar during a 'Shanti Sammelan' event in Jammu on Saturday.(PTI)

Congress getting weak, says Kapil Sibal at G-23 meet in Jammu

PUBLISHED ON FEB 27, 2021 08:00 PM IST
  • Congress leader Kapil Sibal said the party needed the services of Ghulam Nabi Azad who recently retired from the Rajya Sabha, to strengthen it.
Close
Crowd at a vegetable market in Maharashtra's Solapur amid Covid-19 surge.(PTI)
Crowd at a vegetable market in Maharashtra's Solapur amid Covid-19 surge.(PTI)

Maharashtra sees spike of 8,623 fresh Covid-19 cases, Mumbai cases drop to 987

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Poulomi Ghosh
UPDATED ON FEB 27, 2021 08:23 PM IST
Mumbai reported a dip for the first time in the past few days as with 987 cases, its daily toll fall below 1,000.
Close
Himachal Pradesh Congress MLAs holding up copies of the governor Bandaru Dattatreya’s address and obstructing his exit from the assembly by standing in front of his car on Friday. (Deepak Sansta/HT Photo)
Himachal Pradesh Congress MLAs holding up copies of the governor Bandaru Dattatreya’s address and obstructing his exit from the assembly by standing in front of his car on Friday. (Deepak Sansta/HT Photo)

HP speaker lodges complaint against Cong MLAs for 'manhandling' Guv

PTI
PUBLISHED ON FEB 27, 2021 07:35 PM IST
Earlier on Saturday, Assembly Secretary Yash Paul Sharma had told PTI that the Speaker has submitted a formal complaint to DGP Sanjay Kundu for registering an FIR against the Congress legislators.
Close
Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’(PTI)
Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’(PTI)

Education Minister says other countries want to implement India's NEP

PTI
PUBLISHED ON FEB 27, 2021 07:32 PM IST
The minister, who was addressing the 97th annual convocation of Delhi University, said the new education policy that has been brought into place after "much deliberation" will see India "reform, perform and transform".
Close
A medical worker takes a swab sample from a passenger for a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) Covid-19 coronavirus test at the railway station in New Delhi.(AFP)
A medical worker takes a swab sample from a passenger for a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) Covid-19 coronavirus test at the railway station in New Delhi.(AFP)

Centre backs testing, identifying mutant strain in 8 Covid-19 hotspot states

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Arpan Rai, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON FEB 27, 2021 07:28 PM IST
Maharashtra, Punjab, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Telangana and Jammu and Kashmir have been advised not to lower their guard, enforce Covid-19 appropriate behaviour and deal firmly with violations.
Close
LJP president Chirag Paswan said it is the duty of everyone belonging to the deprived section of society to pitch in this regard.(HT File)
LJP president Chirag Paswan said it is the duty of everyone belonging to the deprived section of society to pitch in this regard.(HT File)

Chirag Paswan donates 1.11 lakh for Ram temple construction

PTI, Patna
PUBLISHED ON FEB 27, 2021 07:19 PM IST
Paswan, who is no longer part of the ruling NDA in Bihar but remains a vocal supporter of the BJP, described himself as a descendent of Shabri.
Close
The number of Covid-19 cases in Panvel, Navi Mumbai, Thane — areas which are covered by Mumbai locals — has increased as well. (Anshuman Poyrekar/HT Photo)
The number of Covid-19 cases in Panvel, Navi Mumbai, Thane — areas which are covered by Mumbai locals — has increased as well. (Anshuman Poyrekar/HT Photo)

Are Mumbai locals responsible for Covid-19 spike? Here's what BMC data reveals

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Poulomi Ghosh
UPDATED ON FEB 27, 2021 08:27 PM IST
On February 1, Mumbai locals were open to the general public with specific time restrictions. On February 10, the first spike was reported when the city witnessed 558 cases.
Close
A medic collects a swab sample of a passenger for the Covid-19 test at a bus stand in Bengaluru.(PTI)
A medic collects a swab sample of a passenger for the Covid-19 test at a bus stand in Bengaluru.(PTI)

Central govt should cut its tax on fuel, says Tamil Nadu govt

PTI, Chennai
UPDATED ON FEB 27, 2021 07:03 PM IST
Panneerselvam, pointing to accusations by the main opposition DMK over the interim budget (2021-22), said a flawed view, holding the state government responsible for the petrol and diesel price rise, was being propagated.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP