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Zoom Out: India plans to develop 'desi' version of video-conferencing app


New Delhi, April 18 2020 - The Centre is planning to bankroll the development of a 'desi' video-conferencing mobile application, which will initially cater to the Central and state government entities.

Significantly, the development comes at a time when the Centre has red-flagged an international video-conferencing mobile application over security concerns. As per plans, under the Digital India programme, the Centre has called upon India-based developers to create a tool with primary function of video-conferencing.

This solution from the concept stage will be scrutinised for various aspects, including data security features. The selected application will get a contract for use by Central and state government entities for video-conferencing purposes for a period of four years.

The developers will also be free to market their product to entities outside the government organisations.

According to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, the selected solution will receive Rs 1 crore in the first year and an additional support at the rate of Rs 10 lakh per year for the next three years towards operation and maintenance of the application.

Lately, travel restrictions imposed due to the lockdown measure has made these applications quite popular. Presently, the majority of non-essential service sector manpower is working from home. Many business establishments are heavily reliant on these applications to coordinate their workforce and conduct meetings.

The nationwide lockdown, which has been deemed necessary to curb the spread of Covid-19, has dealt a heavy blow to the service sector, leading to a temporary closure of shopping malls and restaurants, shutting down offices and deserting market places.

At present, major IT players, including Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex, have developed such applications which differ in features but offer the commonality of allowing for video-conferencing using mobile phones.

Incidentally, the Cyber Coordination Centre (CCC) of the Ministry of Home Affairs in an advisory issued on April 12 mentioned that "secure use of Zoom meeting platform is for private individuals and not for use of government offices or official purposes".

The government said that the CERT-In had been informed on February 6 and March 30 this year, clarifying that "Zoom is not a safe platform".

In a set of guidelines for the safety of private users, the CCC division of the MHA mentioned that "those private individuals who still would like to use Zoom for private purposes" should follow certain guidelines like prevention of unauthorised entry in conference room and unauthorised participants to carry out malicious activity on terminals of others in the conference.

The advisory also suggested to "avoid 'DOS' attacks by restricting users through passwords and access grant".


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