India developing home-grown video conferencing alternative to Zoom

video conferencing India
Photo by Dishant_S

India is developing its own secure video conferencing platform to offer an alternative to services like Zoom that are being frequently used in the country after the nationwide lockdown.

The latest move follows a warning issued against the use of Zoom last month by India’s Ministry of Home Affairs and the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), which is the national agency to combat cyberattacks and guarding the cyberspace.

The development of the video conferencing solution is in the final leg and is being led by India’s Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT). There will be two versions of the solution – one for courts and government bodies, while the other version will be made available to every Indian citizen.

The video conferencing platform will come up with features offered by Zoom and Microsoft Teams and will be hosted on local servers, owned by the India government.

Media reports suggest that the Indian government felt the need for an indigenous video conferencing solution during the nationwide lockdown which has resulted in a massive spike in Zoom usage and other services. The government now believes that the video conferencing platform will be required for the functioning of most government departments and the courts, therefore developing an indigenous platform was the need of the hour.

The CERT-In had said that Zoom is prone to hacking and the unguarded use of the service could leave it vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

Following the warning, the Indian government also launched a public hackathon to develop an indigenous video conferencing solution. The initiative, launched by the Ministry of Electronics and IT, is open for participation from industry, startups, and individual experts.

The C-DoT solution will soon be available for commercial usage, even as the hackathon continues to gather steam with 2000 applications received by the government.

“The winning team with the best-judged solution will receive Rs 1 Crore in the first year and additional support of Rs 10 lakhs per year towards operations & Maintenance, for a period of 3 years after the first year of deployment subject to terms and condition of the final contract to be signed,” as per an official communication available on the government website.

Separately, Indian tech startup Inscripts has also developed its own video chat platform, called ‘Say Namaste’.  The startup claims that infrastructure for its service is on servers located in India.

The C-DoT has also developed its WhatsApp rival application, Samvad, which will be available for public and government usage via two different versions.

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