India unveiled the world’s cheapest tablet computer on Wednesday priced at $35 meant for the students with the government subsidizing $15 as the manufacturing cost is $50.
“When these devices are actually used by students across India we will then get valuable feedback,” said Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal, releasing the tablet as promised on time.
The name of the tablet PC will be Aakash, which means sky in Sanskrit. The tablet was developed as part of the National Mission on Education as a low cost alternative to high-end tablets which were available at $200. A retail version of the product will be sold in retail for about $60. Even the latest tablet made by an Indian company called Pepper was priced $99.
“The tablet would let children go beyond the boundary of classroom and teachers to acquire knowledge through IT,” said the minister at a function in New Delhi last month, and promised to make it available to every child in school. “The tablet shall help enhance the quality of learning of children…This is not just a dream, it is a reality.”
Manufactured by DataWind, a UK-based company, the tablet will sport a 7-inch touchscreen display, 256MB of RAM, two USB drives, a 2GB SD memory card and a 32 GB expandable memory slot. It will run on Google’s Android platform. Other features include PDF reader, video conferencing facilities and multi content viewer.
The tablet was initially designed and developed by the Indian Institute of Science and the Indian Institute of Technology, Rajasthan. The program will connect over 25,000 colleges in the country.
However, the tablet will counter the global initiative called “One Laptop Per Child” (OLPC) which was started to create a $100 laptop for underprivileged children around the world.
The OLPC, manufactured by Quanta, is priced ten times more than Sakshat tablet and it is supplied to schools which place bulk orders. “We can produce an OLPC for less than $100 if we just remove the swivel and a few features. But we don’t do that because a child needs a complete environment to learn, it is a school in a box. The $35 device meets the expectation of somebody who wants to manufacture the device but not the needs of the users,” says Satish Jha, president and CEO of OLPC India Foundation.
This current phase was a pilot to procure 100,000 devices and is supposed to help in sorting out the production related issues. These devices are now being distributed to students all over the country so that they can be extensively tested in various climatic and usage conditions. The feedback obtained from the testing will form an input into the design of the next version of the device. The ministry hopes that the numbers that the Mission needs to procure are very large.
To achieve this, the team of experts working on this project would be broad-based. The production capacities of Indian manufacturers would also have to be substantially expanded to meet production requirements of a few million devices within a six-month time frame
Future efforts will move in two directions – to achieve the same functionality at a lower cost and to achieve added capabilities at the same cost, said the HRD ministry in a statement. It has also invited ideas and inventions from the community of academics and experts and inventors to achieve the cherished goals.
It is expected that 416 Universities and 20,000 colleges all over India will be connected under the National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (NME-ICT). The Mission pays for fiber connectivity for each University to connect to the nearest NKN node. The Mission has placed a consolidated order for connecting all Universities and Colleges to BSNL and about 80 percent of the Universities and Colleges have been connected already.
The National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (NME-ICT) has proposed 18 different line items for content creation. All content that is created under this Mission needs to meet the following criteria:
- It should be related to education delivery.
- It should involve faculty from different institutions
- All IP (Intellectual Property) created under projects funded by this Mission will vest with MHRD
- All content should be created using open-source software.
- All content created under this Mission is for open access by all and cannot be charged for in any way
The National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (NME-ICT) was launched by the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development, in February 2009 with a budget of Rs 4.6 billion. The National Mission on Education comprises of 48 different components structured broadly around building CONTENT, enabling ACCESS and developing LOW COST ACCESS cum COMPUTING DEVICES.
Aakash UbiSlate 7 Specs:
– Processor: 366 Mhz with Graphics accelerator and HD Video processor
– Memory (RAM): 256MB RAM / Storage (Internal): 2GB Flash
– Storage (External): 2GB to 32GB Supported
– Peripherals (USB2.0 ports, number): 1 Standard USB port
– Audio out: 3.5mm jack / Audio in: 3.5mm jack
– Display and Resolution: 7” display with 800×480 pixel resolution
– Input Devices: Resistive touch screen
– Connectivity and Networking: WiFi IEEE 802.11 a/b/g
– Power and Battery: Up to 180 minutes on battery. AC adapter 200-240 volt range.
– OS: Android 2.2
– Document Rendering
• Supported Document formats: DOC, DOCX, PPT, PPTX, XLS, XLSX, ODT, ODP
• PDF viewer, Text editor
– Multimedia and Image Display
• Image viewer supported formats: PNG, JPG, BMP and GIF
• Supported audio formats: MP3, AAC, AC3, WAV, WMA
• Supported video formats: MPEG2, MPEG4, AVI, FLV
– Communication and Internet
• Separate application for online YouTube video
• Safety and other standards compliance
– CE certification / RoHS certification
Other: Additional Web Browser: UbiSurfer-Browser with compression/acceleration and IE8 rendering.