- Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash says that higher app usage is leading to mental health issues
- Youth is not involved in actual sports, but doing virtual athletics, Prakash said
- Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has recently banned 59 Chinese apps over ‘sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order’
Days after the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, the Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash said that there are negative impacts of the growing digital economy on the youth of the country. “This includes addiction to apps and mobile phones. Youngsters are not doing athletics these days; they are doing it virtually,” said Prakash at a webinar organised by lobby body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).
Prakash said that this has taken a toll on the mental health of the youngsters. “The mental health cases are on a rise. It’s important to strike a balance, and take necessary steps when required,” he said.
On Monday, the IT ministry issued an order that prohibited apps like TikTok, Helo, UC Browser, Likee, Shareit, Vigo Video, Mi Community and others. Following this order, these apps were reportedly taken off from mobile operating systems (Android and iOS). Invoking Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, the order said that these 59 apps are engaged in activities “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.”
Secretary Prakash also pointed out that the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in higher data consumption across the country. He said that the average daily data consumption has jumped from 270 petabytes prior to the lockdown to about 300 petabytes after March 22. One petabyte equals 1 million gigabytes (GB). “During the pandemic, the telecom infrastructure remains resilient and robust. Certain OTTs and movie (streaming) providers have contributed to higher consumption,” he said.
Although the IT ministry’s order didn’t specifically mention “Chinese apps”, the internet users linked the ban with the ongoing geopolitical tensions between India and China.
Over the past few weeks, the anti-China rhetoric has gathered steam. On July 1, the Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari reportedly banned Chinese firms to participate in the bidding of highway projects. A few days ago, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), which comes under Prakash, reportedly asked state-run telcos BSNL and MTNL to stop using Chinese equipment (from Huawei and ZTE) in their 4G expansion.
TikTok is particularly having a tough time in India for quite some time. For instance, the Madras High Court issued an interim ban on the ByteDance-owned app last year after it was found to be hosting pornographic material. Following which, the app launched a series of initiatives, including “TikTok For Good” campaign, that aimed at restoring its image.
This is understood because India is one of the biggest markets for TikTok, accounting for over 30 per cent of its total downloads. A large percentage of its users are believed to be youngsters who spend nearly 40 minutes daily on the app.
Two days prior to the recent ban, Apple’s mobile operations system iOS flagged that TikTok and other 53 apps were spying on the clipboard data of its iPhone users. That’s not all. There are independent researches pointing out that TikTok collects more data on its users than Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Even as TikTok plans to contest the ban orders, there are reports that company might find it difficult to win this battle legally. That would jeopardise the future of ByteDance in the country that reportedly employs over 2,000 people in India out of its total global workforce of 60,000.
Soon after the ban, Nikhil Gandhi, head of TikTok India, said that it is in the process of complying with the “interim order” of the government. “We have been invited to meet with concerned government stakeholders for an opportunity to respond and submit clarifications. TikTok continues to comply with all data privacy and security requirements under Indian law and have not shared any information of our users in India with any foreign government, including the Chinese government,” Gandhi said in an official statement.