The National Informatics Centre has launched an instant messaging platform called Sandes on the lines of WhatsApp. Like WhatsApp, the new NIC platform can be used for all kinds of communications by anyone with a mobile number or email id.
Following the nationwide lockdown imposed in March 2020 to contain the spread of Covid-19, the government felt the need to build a platform to ensure secure communication between its employees as they worked from home.
After security scares, the Ministry of Home Affairs had in April last year issued an advisory to all government employees to avoid using platforms like Zoom for official communication. This was after the Computer Emergency Response Team (Cert-In) had also posted an advisory against Zoom over safety and privacy concerns.
The idea for a secure communication network dedicated exclusively to government employees has been in the works for the past four years. The execution of the idea was accelerated during the last year, according to officials.
In August 2020, the NIC released the first version of the app, which said that the app could be used by both central and state government officials “for intra and inter-organisation communication.” The app was initially launched for Android users and then the service was extended to iOS users.
The launch of the app is also a part of the government strategy to push for use of India-made software so as to build an ecosystem of indigenously developed products. Open initially only to government officers, it has now been released for the common public as well.
What is different in the new app developed by NIC?
The instant messaging app, called Sandes, has an interface similar to many other apps currently available in the market. Although there is no option to transfer the chat history between two platforms, the chats on government instant messaging systems or GIMS can be backed up to a users’ email.
GIMS, like other instant messaging apps in the market, uses a valid mobile number or email id to register the user for the first time. It also offers features such as group making, broadcast message, message forwarding and emojis.
Further, as an additional safety feature, it allows a user to mark a message as confidential, which, the app’s description says, will allow the recipient to be made aware the message should not be shared with others. The confidential tag, however, does not change the way the message is sent from one user to another.
The limitation, however, is that the app does not allow the user to change their email id or registered phone number. The user will have to re-register as a new user in case they wish to change their registered email id or phone number on the app.