So the government wants to get rid of Gmail & Yahoo from offices. Fair enough. All organisations want official e-mails on their servers. India’s Information Technology department is cobbling together a policy on e-mail use in government offices. The proposed policy, which places a government ban on Gmail, Yahoo and other online e-mail services for official purposes, seems to be geared more towards threat from within than from outside.
But even the top officials at the Department of Electronics & Information Technology wouldn’t use official IDs*. I spoke to a few friends who work at the National Informatics Center, which maintains Government e-mail. Most of them said that the system is functional. I believe them. It is usable alright. But then, why do government officials have so many Yahoo & Gmail addresses? Here’s probably what’s going on.
1. Privacy: Government officials don’t want to use official e-mail because they don’t think their privacy will be respected. They fear that their e-mails will be read by superiors and co-workers and are convinced that it is not an ideal situation to be in. It can also be used against them.
2. Accountability: Government e-mail can be traced and tracked. You don’t get the benefit of anonymity or the ability to deny ownership. Private e-mail on the other hand, could be anybodies and is easy to disown. Its like writing on a letterhead vs writing on a plain sheet of paper.
3. Downtime: Google commits to 99.9% uptime and sticks to it most of the time. The Service Level Agreements at NIC are pretty high (last I heard, it was 99.5%). However, it isn’t met very often. There is significant downtime & frequent hack attacks.
4. Design & UX: The design & UX are from the days of Web 1.0. They are functional but not intuitive. In fact, it is really clunky. This is not a deciding criteria but who wants to deal with it when you have free, slick alternatives?
5. Work with pleasure: It may not be too much of a stretch to postulate that Babus often mix work with pleasure & other shenanigans. We don’t want all that on official e-mail do we?
* Hat Tip: Manish Malik
* Image Credit: Shutterstock