Government of India Develops its Own WhatsApp which is currently on testing stage.
Amid the raging controversy over privacy on WhatsApp, the government is planning a whole new approach - its own version of the messaging app.
Sources in the Ministry of Electronics and Information and Technology (MeITY) have confirmed to NDTV that two such apps are being tested in their beta stage. They have been codenamed Samvad and Sandes, literally "conversation" and "message", respectively.
"These apps are being developed completely by the government of India. It is going to be an instant messaging app like WhatsApp," said a MeITY functionary. NDTV has learnt that the government also has plans for an app called GIMS - Government Instant Messaging Service - meant only for government of India employees to communicate.
"A need was being felt within the government for a very long time to have our own, independent, and self-owned instant messaging service. Development of these apps began way before the present WhatsApp controversy," said the source.
The biggest advantage of this app will be that "we will never have to worry about data being stolen and used for commercial gains by big tech".
However, its acceptance among people can be gauged only after a public roll-out - it isn't clear still if both Samvad and Sandes or only one of them will have one. Sources say once beta testing is over, Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself is expected to dedicate the app to the nation.
Sandes is available on Apple store for a few people to test. It has a blue-and-white interface with the Ashok Chakra as its logo. It authorises and verifies only government employees for now.
"It may entirely be possible that one of these apps shall remain for the internal consumption of government employees and not be rolled out for the public," the source said.
The leak of WhatsApp chats in recent months, involving several prominent people and well-known faces, too, has added to the overall anxiety over privacy and security. All the more so since the platform has increasingly become a handy tool in business ventures at all levels.
The new apps, meanwhile, are being developed under the Digital India rubric by the National Informatics Centre (NIC). Functioning under MeITY, NIC provides the support system for the delivery of the government's IT services and Digital India initiatives.