Govt launches contest to scout for local alternatives to popular foreign apps

Govt launches contest to scout for local alternatives to popular foreign apps
Photo Credit: VCCircle
6 Jul, 2020

Prime minister Narendra Modi announced an Aatmanirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge on Saturday to promote existing Indian apps and encourage companies to create new alternatives to foreign apps. 

The contest is run by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and NITI Aayog’s flagship initiative Atal Innovation Mission. They will pick three winners each from eight categories, such as office productivity and work from home, e-learning, social networking, entertainment, health and wellness, business including agritech and fintech, news and games. 

The development comes days after the government banned 59 Chinese apps, including ByteDance-owned short video sharing platform TikTok that has one of its largest user bases in India, over national security concerns. Local players such as social media platform ShareChat, and short video apps Chingari and Mitron reported a surge in downloads after the ban was implemented. 

The government said in a statement that it will also aid with ideation, incubation, prototyping and market access to develop the new apps.

The apps will be judged by an expert jury, with members from the private sector and academia, on the basis of ease of use, robustness, security features and scalability, the statement said. The winner will receive a cash award of Rs 20 lakh in each category and the winning amount for a sub-category is Rs 5 lakh, it said. The last date for submission of entries is July 18.

In April, MeitY announced an innovation challenge to develop a video conferencing solution under the Digital India initiative after the Cyber Coordination Centre, which is part of the Ministry of Home Affairs, stated that video conferencing app Zoom was not safe for government use. India accounted for the highest number of Zoom installs on Google Play in April. 

Telecom service providers Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel recently announced their own video conferencing platforms. 

As the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, continues to be under review by a parliamentary committee, the government is said to be looking at app privacy and data protection issues on a case-by-case basis.