India launches $ 50 Aakash tablet PC
India has launched the initial pilot run of the Aakash tablet PC, with some 100,000 units having been delivered.
The PC, similar in look and functionality to an iPad, has been designed to specifically cater for Indian students and the Indian Ministry of Human Resource and Development is set to purchase 10 mm of them to distribute to schoolchildren in attempts to improve literacy and educational standards across the country.
Jointly developed by the Canadian company Datawind and the Indian Institute of Technology Rajasthan, the Aakash is being manufactured in India at plants in Cochin, Noida and Hyderabad.
By the end of March an updated version tweaked from observations made during this run will be launched and distributed throughout the country at a rate of 5 mm a month.
The Aakash -- which means “Sky” in Hindi -- is expected to have a transforming effect on Indian society.
“We expect that within 5 or 10 years everyone will have one -- and every year there will be greater capacity. There will be children learning, farmers checking on irrigation or crop prices, pregnant women getting medical assistance, all through the Aakash. It is empowerment on a global scale,” said Professor Prem Kalra of the Indian Institute of Technology Rajasthan.
A key factor in India, where many of those lucky enough to have a job earn no more than $ 3 per day, is cost. Kalra and his team said the specific goal was building a functioning computer that a daily wage labourer could buy if he saved one day’s earnings a month. This gave a $ 50 target.
Recent estimates indicate that 112 mm Indians currently have internet access, a distant third behind China with 485 mm and the United States with 245 mm.
The level reflects India’s low relative levels of education, creaky infrastructure and persistent poverty. But the number is set to reach 230 mm within three or four years, according to industry estimates.
The government is aiming for 600 mm Indians using the internet by 2016 in a market that is expected to overtake China to see Indians become the biggest single internet user population in the world within less than a decade.