Using Gmail by Government – Why is it bad practice ?

Yesterday Bijay (@bhutabe) and me were discussing about constitution draft of  Nepal, and suddenly one thing grabbed my attention and that was, an email address distributed to collect suggestions from the public. In the same notice two email addresses were provided; one of them was gmail and other was from the Govt. domain (.gov.np). I was amazed and wondered why on earth someone from the government use a third party email service like gmail for government’s official purpose. By looking at the two email address, there was no uniformity in the email as well.


Now lets discuss why this is not a good practice. Lets take a reference from our neighbor country India, India circulated ‘Email Policy of Government of India’ and ‘Policy on use of Information Technology resources of Government of India’, back in 2014 by Modi’s Government.

In that policy following statement clearly asks all the officials not to use third party email services.

“The e-mail services provided by other service providers shall not be used for any official communication,” the notification says. These notified policies will cover all central government employees, employees of those state governments/UTs which use email services of the Centre and those states that choose to adopt this in future. The step was in the offing for long given the government’s concern over foreign servers of Gmail and Yahoo and instances of US snooping.

The notified policies stipulate measures to ensure secure and proper access to and usage of government’s IT resources and “prevent their misuse” by users (officials).

Forcing govt’s officials to use the govt’s email service has the only one aim and that is privacy. Beside that few other points which is listed below :

First, Gmail and other third party services are providing the service that is not in our jurisdictions. Since Email is a private communication, and when its government, it should maintain some confidentiality. However if the email is to be stored in some private company’s data-center in other country there would arise a threat in confidentiality. There are recent incidents reporting that US’s spy agencies are forcing companies like: gmail/yahoo/Facebook to provide the individual’s data for investigation. Evidently, a notable mention that hackers are always targeting gmail and other private email service providers to grab private information.

Second, it gives a clear message  that we do not believe in our IT systems even if we do have our own data centers, separate department for IT, Office of certificate controller, and a separate department of IT in each of government/ departments offices. Despite huge investments on IT infrastructure, our system seems useless.

Third, with government having a policy to adopt e-governance for better governance, it contradicts with the government’s practice. Government itself is not practicing the online system effectively.

While gmail might be more reliable than current government email system, but that should not be an excuse. We should make our system better, secure and reliable. There are many tasks needed to be done but we are implementing the e-governance in the paper only. Public suggestions on the development of draft-constitution should not be read by others.


Saroj Lamichhane

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