The launch of Aakash Tablet PC – an affordable Computer priced atRs2,250 – Aakash Computer is the country’s latest offering in the series of affordable technological innovations that includes the world’s cheapest car, Tata Nano.
As part of the pilot run, the first one lakh units procured by the government will be given to students for free. Eventually, this computer tablet could be purchased by undergraduate and postgraduate students at a subsidised price of roughlyRs800 toRs1,000. Though the ministry has a target of delivering one crore computer tablets to students, it hasn’t chalked out a definite distribution plan yet.
Though the low cost computer tablet has been created specifically for students with the aim of bridging the “digital divide” between the rich and poor, a commercial version of the device is also expected to hit the market in November with a retail tag of Rs 2,999.
According to a report, India lags behind other BRIC nations – Brazil, Russia and China – in the drive to get its 1.2- billion population connected to Internet and mobile phones.
“When we arrived at (the) $ 10 (Rs500) price, people laughed at us and said that we were taking the nation for a ride,” said additional secretary N. K. Sinha, HRD, of the computer tablet whose first prototype was unveiled in July last year. “No matter what people say, we will achieve the final goal of providing the tablet for $ 10.”
Describing the achievement as a milestone, Union HRD minister Kapil Sibal said that though the low-cost tablet will be initially provided to students in India, his government hopes that it will also find a market abroad. “The device is not only for Indian students but for those of the world,” he said.
The Aakash tablet has been manufactured in Hyderabad by a Canadian firm, Datawind, in collaboration with Jodhpur-IIT.
It works on Android 2.2 operating system, has a seven- inch touchscreen, 256 MB RAM, two USB ports, a multimedia player and 180 minutes of battery power.
Aakash’s closest competitor (in terms of features and price) in the country is Beetel’s Megiq, which is priced atRs9,990.
To ensure complete transparency and a level playing-field, the National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (NMEICT) decided to task IIT-Jodhpur with the job of procuring and testing these devices based on the design and specifications that the Mission’s team had finalised.
IIT-Jodhpur had floated a tender and the lowest bidder quoted an ex-factory price of $ 37.98, which was close to the cost mentioned by Sibal.
“The final goal is to either provide the same features at a lower cost or provide better functionality and features at the same cost,” said Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO of Datawind.
The launch of the world’s cheapest computer tablet is the third leg of the HRD ministry’s ambitious plan to integrate Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the teaching-learning process. Under the National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (NME-ICT), the ministry has already connected 80 per cent of the colleges and universities in India with Wi-Fi network.
As part of NME-ICT, the Aakash tablet has been designed to provide students with access to online streaming course material and will also help them conduct web-based research.
According to Anshu Vaish, secretary, school education, e-content is already being created for Aakash and the IITs have already created course material in almost all engineering disciplines. That apart, online material for 90 subjects at the undergraduate students is also available.
The government hopes to better the device based on the feedback of the pilot run.
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