Lessons to be learnt from the RIM fiasco

by Abhinna Shreshtha    Aug 23, 2010

The RIM fiascoWith no resolution in sight, BlackBerry users in India are on tenterhooks. Many have already resigned themselves to the fact that some of the popular smartphone’s most used features will soon no longer be available, others still hope that the government and RIM can come to some compromise before the August 31 deadline.

The issue between the government and RIM has been going on and off since the past three years, though why the government chose to play hardball right now, with RIM facing similar pressures from countries notorious for their rigid monitoring policies, is anyone’s guess. Add to this rumors that Google and Skype are next on the government’s hitlist and we can only hope that India is not going the China way.

Even if we agree that the government is justified in asking RIM to provide security agencies with real-time access to data, something that RIM maintains it cannot provide, it still raises a few questions:

a) Why, when RIM first entered the Indian market, did the DoT or TRAI not place these demands?

b) At least telecom operators could have been advised to not provide services which security agencies could not tap. Why was this not done?

c) If RIM is right and it cannot provide real-time data, are security agencies and the government working on an alternate plan?

d) With confusion still surrounding issues like 3G and MNP, why take this step now and add to the chaos?

It has become something of a habit for Indians to blame the government for everything that goes wrong, but in the case of telecom issues, government agencies have really not covered themselves in glory. Almost every issue recently, right from spectrum allocation, to the 3G auctions and mobile number portability has been grossly mismanaged.

In fact, security agencies have also asked operators to not go ahead with 3G till they have the capability to intercept data, again an issue that was raised even before the 3G auctions, and which, in all probability, will lead to another controversy later on. One would have thought that by now the government would have learnt to be careful in these matters, but sadly it does not seem to be the case.

Coming back to the RIM case, it looks like the government will have its way and RIM will have to shut down its messenger and email services in India. The losers, as always, will be the Indian public and the one million odd BlackBerry users in the country.