After India’s app ban: Modi announces app innovation challenge to promote Indian platforms; TikTok distances itself from Beijing

After India’s app ban: Modi announces app innovation challenge to promote Indian platforms; TikTok distances itself from Beijing

In a tweet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today announced the new Digital Indian AatmaNirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge aimed at improving the Indian app ecosystem. The challenge was launched by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) in partnership with the Atal Innovation Mission and government think-tank Niti Aayog and focuses on promoting existing Indian apps and also the development of new apps.

In Track 1 of the challenge, the government says it will first identify the “best Indian apps” that citizens are already using  and have the potential to scale and become world class apps in their respective categories.

Track 2 of the challenge, which will run longer than the first, will identify companies and entrepreneurs who can build apps for the country.

The initiative appears to be focussed on finding replacement for the 59 Chinese apps that were recently banned in the country.

The first track of the challenge is being launched in eight categories, including Office Productivity & Work from Home, Social Networking, E-Learning, Entertainment, Health & Wellness, Business including Agritech and Fintech, News and Games.

The innovation challenge that can be accessed through the MyGov platform, will open from July 4. Companies will have to submit their entries online by July 18. The government will appoint a jury for each of the tracks, with personnel from the private sector and academia to assess the entries.

After evaluation, these apps will be given prizes and features on “leaderboards for information of citizens”. The government has allocated Rs 20 lakh, Rs 15 lakh and Rs 10 lakh for the first, second and third placed apps in each category. There may also be sub-categories, where winners will receive Rs 5 lakh, Rs 3 lakh and Rs 2 lakh for first, second and third position, respectively.

TikTok socially distances itself from China

Popular social media app TikTok sought to distance itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by news agency Reuters.

TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by Beijing headquartered ByteDance has distanced itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience.

In a letter to the Indian government on June 28, and seen by Reuters on Friday,  TikTok Chief Executive Kevin Mayer wrote the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company comply if such a request was ever made.

In the letter, sent ahead of a likely meeting next week between the company and the government, Mayer added that data for Indian users is stored in servers in Singapore as he played up the company’s investment in the region, highlighting more than 3,500 direct and indirect employees and content available in 14 languages.

According to sources, the ban was unlikely to be revoked soon, with lawyers stating that a legal challenge was unlikely to be successful, given India has cited national security concerns for the ban.

Although the ban upset India’s rising TikTok stars, it  has also given a lift to local rivals such as Roposo, which added 22 million new users in the 48 hours after the ban took effect.

Since its launch in 2017, TikTok has become one of the fastest- growing social media apps and India is its largest market by user, followed by the United States. The company has committed to spend $1 billion in the region.