Ban Android in India, says country's Communications and IT Minister [Update]

Back in October 2011, following a rather tortured two-and-a-half-year development process that began with the promise of "$10 laptop", the Indian government proudly unveiled "the world's cheapest tablet", sold to students as the 'Aakash' for the equivalent of $35 USD, with a newer version of the device eventually being sold to consumers as the UbiSlate 7Ci. Launched with Android 2.2 Froyo, the Aakash boasted a 366MHz processor, 256MB of RAM and 2GB of onboard storage. 

Human Resources Development Minister, Kapil Sibal, was a keen proponent of the project, and he was the first government representative to show off a prototype of the device during its development in mid-2010. But despite implicitly endorsing Android through its inclusion in the Aakash, the Minister has apparently lost faith in the OS, according to a report from India's IBN Live

Sibal - now a Minister of two departments: Communications and Information Technology; and Law and Justice - has reportedly called for a ban on the Android OS in India, saying that the government is in favour of such a move. He is quoted as saying that phones developed on the Android platform are not suitable or safe for children, which has apparently prompted the call to banish the OS from within the country's borders. 

There are many unknowns here. It's unclear what evidence or suppositions Minister Sibal has used to inform his position that Android is unsuitable for minors. It's also curious that the Minister apparently supported Android during the development of the student-focused Aakash tablet, only to now denounce it as being improper for use by children.

The question of how the Indian government might practically impose such a ban is also unanswered. Even if it were implemented, it would not only affect OEMs importing devices into the country, such as Samsung and HTC, but also Indian handset makers, such as Micromax. It's possible that the threat of a domestic ban on Android handsets - which Micromax offers in considerable numbers in South Asia - was behind the company's commitment this week to launch Windows Phone handsets

Sibal is no stranger to controversy on matters of technology. In 2011, as The New York Times reported, he called on web giants such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook to 'prescreen' content, removing all inflammatory or defamatory content, before making it available online for Indian users.

His attempts to outlaw "grossly offensive" comments online caught the attentions of global hacktivists Anonymous, who claimed credit for defacing his website in 2012, adding the following to his personal biography: "Born with a below-60 IQ, he thought he could mess with the Internet and let the elite of his party suppress freedom of speech."

Source: IBN Live (Hindi) via The Tech Monk | Image via Linux Journal

Update: It seems that IBN's report claiming that the Minister was seeking a ban on the Android OS may have been wide of the mark. DNA India states that Sibal's concerns focus specifically on adult content on the platform. The Minister claims that such content is widely available through Android handsets, saying: "I want all the media to come together and tell [me] how to deal with it so that if I do something about it, you don't attack me."

Google evidently disagrees with Sibal's take on things. A Google spokesperson stated: "Google Play developer programme policy does not allow content that contains nudity, graphic sex acts, or sexually explicit material. Google has a zero-tolerance policy against child pornography."

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