Saturday, February 27, 2021

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After Homegrown Versions Of Twitter & WhatsApp, India To Roll Out Alternative To Google Maps

After developing homegrown versions of Twitter and WhatsApp, India has taken another major step towards self-reliance in the technology domain.

The country’s space agency ISRO signed an agreement with a private company MapmyIndia to develop mapping and other location-based services, perhaps as an alternative to the widely-used Google Maps.

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The development comes days after India started promoting two homegrown versions of Twitter and WhatsApp — – ‘Koo’, and ‘Sandes’ respectively. All these efforts are in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant India) initiative.

MapmyIndia CEO Rohan Verma said: “There are many reasons why Indians are better off with an indigenous solution for maps and geospatial services. MapmyIndia, being a responsible, local Indian company, ensures that its maps reflect the true sovereignty of the country, depicting India’s borders as per the Government of India, and hosts its maps in India.”

While the larger idea is to promote the home-grown technology but so far the alternatives for both Twitter and WhatsApp have been criticized for being poor copies of the US apps.

Besides, neither the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) nor MapmyIndia has given any timeline for the roll-out of the services yet.

In a LinkedIn post, Verma said MapmyIndia’s end-user maps, apps, and services would “integrate with ISRO’s huge catalog of satellite imagery, and earth observation data, and would be a much better, more detailed and comprehensive, as well as privacy-centric, hyper-local and indigenous mapping solutions for Indians, compared to foreign map apps and solutions”.

The Indian government is currently locked in a conflict with the US tech giant Twitter, alleging certain accounts were spreading misinformation on the ongoing farmers’ protests. The government had demanded a ban on around 1,000 accounts, but Twitter refused to comply, saying that such a ban would contravene India’s own laws.

Last month, many Indians had reportedly uninstalled WhatsApp and moved to other messaging apps like Telegram and Signal after the Facebook-owned app had changed its privacy policy. India’s technology ministry has asked the tech giant to withdraw planned changes to its privacy policy after it had drawn widespread backlash.

In an email addressed to WhatsApp chief Will Cathcart, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said the proposed changes raised “grave concerns” over the implications for choice and autonomy of Indian citizens. The update was specifically related to features that allow users to interact with businesses on WhatsApp.

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