“The rich have access to the digital world, the poor and ordinary have been excluded. Aakash will end that digital divide.” – A bold statement from India’s ICT Minister, Kapil Sibal.
However, not too strong a comment when considering the new tablet, Aakash, which is designed in Britain and being assembled in India. So what makes this tablet so different from all the others? Well, it costs a mere 2999 INR (Indian Rupees) which compares to $US 60. Affordable to the masses, this product may very well change the way that emerging markets are advancing. The price is expected to drop even more as mass production grows.
The Indian government is in the process of purchasing tablets from a British company, which is getting them put together in India. Their aim is to distribute them free of charge to students in the area, as a test to see what impact this will have on learning and technology benefits at the government’s expense. 100 000 units are expected to be given away in this process. Bloomberg stated that Sibal announced at a recent news conference that India subsequently plans to buy 10 million tablets over the next five years. Bloomberg also suggests that the price of the tablet may even drop further to as low as 1100 INR ($US 22).
According to The Times of India, the tablet has a 7 inch touch screen and uses Android. It weighs an incredible 350 grams and includes Wi-Fi. With 256MB of RAM and a 32GB memory slot, it also allows for two USB ports. There are also a few essential applications built into the device.
The world’s cheapest tablet will become commercially available next month. Many have stated that is does not compare to the quality of the iPad; however it is a start in the right direction regarding digital literacy investment. Reaching emerging markets that are desperate for development and an upgraded form of education may help boost India’s position in the BRIC nations.