India to create its own WhatsApp! Govt proposes its alternative service for secure messaging
To improve confidentiality in official communications, the government is in the process of setting up its own instant messaging service for mobile phones. The platform, for which pilot tests are currently being conducted by the ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY), will be named Government Instant Messaging Service (GIMS) and is expected to be rolled out later this year.
Apart from Central government offices and departments, GIMS may also be used by state governments if they so desire, sources said.
GIMS is a unified messaging platform being developed by the National Informatics Centre (NIC), which also set up the e-mail service for government departments. Currently, the NIC-created government e-mail service handles more than 2 crore emails daily.
A senior government official said that GIMS has been built through an open source solution in accordance with the policy on adoption of open source software for government by MeitY, thus, ensuring government’s strategic control over the solution. It provides a multilingual platform with 11 local languages and a go-live in English and Hindi initially that will be followed by other languages.
“The app (GIMS) has been developed for both Android and iOS platforms and at present beta testing is going on. A total of 17 government organisations including ministry of external affairs (MEA), ministry of home affairs (MHA), CBI, MeitY, Navy and railways are participating in the testing. Currently, there are around 6,600 users who have generated close to 20 lakh messages,” the official added.
States like Odisha and Gujarat are also participating in the beta testing, the official said.
A former government official, who has handled cyber security threats against the government in the past, said that such a service is very important, especially in light of software like Pegasus, which can be used to snoop on conversations on WhatsApp.
“Today, almost every ministry has its own chat group on commercial platforms like WhatsApp, WeChat, etc. Often officials discuss strategic and sensitive issues on these platforms. With cyber criminals or rogue states targeting such communication, it is high time India has its own government instant messaging service. Such services are crucial today for effective and efficient administration,” he explained.
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