On the banner on the ISRO homepage

The ISRO homepage has been hijacked by an almost-full-page banner soliciting readers’ comments about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech. A friend was understandably irked by this and wanted to know if it could be discussed in an article.

Source: isro.gov.in
Source: isro.gov.in

This is annoying for sure. The ‘Click here’ link opens another tab and loads a mygov.in webpage exhorting the reader to “let [their] ideas flow to the ramparts of the Red Fort”. The friend said that the least that could’ve been done was to ask for comments on India’s space programme that could be included in Modi’s speech.

However, I’m glad in a way that this banner is what it is. All front-facing websites of the Government of India are maintained by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DEITY). ISRO’s is perhaps among the most visited homepages of them all but popularity shouldn’t have to determine how important they are to DEITY, or in fact to those tasked with updating those pages.

In this context, it is simply ludicrous that a majority of government websites – including those of centrally funded universities and research institutions – do not carry an SSL certificate (i.e. the domain loads on an http connection instead of on an https connection). This is the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology website, for example:

Source: meity.gov.in

Second: ISRO’s homepage itself is often outdated. The organisation is notorious for its lack of outreach. Its press releases section does not discuss anything but successful launches for the most part. The latest item on the homepage carousel at 4.37 pm on August 11 was the launch of the IRNSS 1I satellite, which happened on April 18. On top of all this, the CSS is non-uniform. This is what one of the slides looked like:

Screen Shot 2018-08-11 at 16.41.11.png

… and the next slide looked like this:

Source: isro.gov.in
Source: isro.gov.in

What the hell is a reader supposed to expect?

In light of these issues, seeing the banner about Modi’s Independence Day speech doesn’t seem out of the ordinary at all: I click ‘close’ and get more nonsense from the website itself. I’m glad that the DEITY or the PMO or whoever decided to deface the ISRO homepage the way they have because one hopes that, at least this way, the readers and anyone else using the website – including ISRO itself – will take their corresponding digital residence more seriously, treating it and securing it the way it should be.