Within a week of banning 59 ‘Chinese’ apps, the Indian government on July 4 launched an ‘app innovation challenge’, involving cash rewards and other incentives, to promote existing Indian apps, and help in the development of new apps.

Flanked under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat campaign, the “Digital India AatmaNirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge” was launched on Saturday as a partnership between Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MEITY) and the NITI Aayog’s Atal Innovation Mission.

Under the first track of the challenge, the “best” existing Indian apps that have the potential to scale and to become “world class Apps in their respective categories” will be identified. This will be completed within a month. Indian entrepreneurs and startups will be incentivised “to ideate, incubate, build, nurture and sustain Tech solutions that can serve not only citizens within India but also the world”. These apps can fall under the following broad categories:

  1. Office Productivity & Work from Home
  2. Social Networking
  3. E-Learning
  4. Entertainment
  5. Health & Wellness
  6. Business including Agritech and Fin-tech
  7. News
  8. Games

Shortlisted apps will be given awards and will feature on “Leader Boards” for information on citizens. It’s unclear what leaderboards are. The government will also adopt suitable apps, “guide them to maturity”, and list them on the Government e-Marketplace (GeM).

PM Narendra Modi had announced the challenge on Friday on his LinkedIn profile. His post said:

“Can we think of making traditional Indian games more popular via Apps? Can we develop Apps with targeted and smart access to the right age group for learning, gaming, etc? Can we develop gaming apps for people in rehabilitation or getting counselling to help them in their journey?”

Further details on the second track, which will run for longer, are not yet available. A jury with experts from the private sector and academia will evaluate the entries, based on UI/UX, robustness, security and scalability.

The Innovation Challenge will be available on innovate.mygov.in/app-challenge from 4th July 2020. The last date of submission of entries is 18th July 2020. The applicants need to apply online to submit their proposals by registering and logging on to the MyGov portal – www.mygov.in.

On June 29, the Indian government decided to block 59 apps, all from Chinese companies — including TikTok, Shein, Clash of Kings, Shareit — alleging that the apps were “engaged in activities which [are] prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order”. The ban order was made out to be under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, and came amid heightened tensions between India and China involving a border dispute in Ladakh.

While both of Byetdance’s apps, TikTok and Helo, vanished from apps stores within a day, 54 apps were removed from Apple and Google respective stores as of Thursday. These included Shareit, Kwai, and Club Factory. Four apps — Likee, Bigo Live, Viva Video, Vigo Video — were also taken down, but their “lite version” was still available.

Also read: TikTok denies initiating legal action against govt’s app-ban decision