India’s dependence on “foreign apps which have all agenda for a variety of reasons must stop,” Union Electronics and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Wednesday.
“In the wake of the ban which we have imposed … I don’t want to go into the details of it … emergency powers have been exercised and the legal processes have been followed. But I think it is a great opportunity for goods and apps made by Indians,” he said at a virtual conference to mark five years of the completion of Digital India.
Prasad also requested Nasscom president Debjani Ghosh and Infosys’ non-executive chairman Nandan Nilekani — who were both present at conference — to encourage startups and individuals which made such apps. “There will be encouragement from our side but we also need a helping hand from many others. There is a big scope of public private partnership, which we will need to finalise in our own way,” Prasad said.
Citing the “emergent nature of threats” from mobile applications, including popular ones of Chinese origin such as TikTok, ShareIt, UCBrowser, Club Factory and CamScanner, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) had Monday banned 59 apps based on information that they were engaged in activities “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity”, defence, security and public order. Among the apps banned under Section 69A of the I-T Act are some of the most downloaded in the country, with Indians making up the largest chunk of many user bases. For instance, Indians make up the largest base of Tik Tok, which is owned by ByteDance. According to app tracking platform Sensor Tower, the 611 million total downloads from India, including multiple downloads by one user, form almost a third of the video platform’s base.
The move is seen as a retaliatory step amid the border tension between India and China that led to 20 Indian Army personnel being killed on June 15. On Wednesday, state-owned BSNL and MTNL also formally cancelled their tender for 4G network installation, planning, testing, and maintenance. The new bid is likely to specifically bar Chinese vendors.
The now cancelled March 23 tender, floated by BSNL on its as own as well as MTNL’s behalf, had sought installation of 50,000 4G sites in the north, east, west, and south zones of BSNL and 7,000 4G sites for MTNL in Delhi and Mumbai local service areas.
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