India’s Human Resources Development (HRD) ministry may scrap Aakash tablet, the so called cheapest tablet. It has turned out to be a white elephant
Pallam Raju had taken over from Kapil Sibal about four months back and took over the Human Resource Development Ministry. He changed something that was very close to Sibal’s heart. The much-hyped Aakash tablet, remember? There you are. The latest is that Raju has stated the ministry might give up on $35 Aakash tablet.
Aakash’s forte was bridging the technology gap created by expensive gizmos in the market as technology came with a condition, ‘money’.
Raju has a different concept when it comes to providing the technology edge to students. He said that the ministry should not be obsessed with hardware rather students should be given an option to choose the device that they want so that students are enabled with educational content.
Raju was quoted as saying, “Aakash is only a tablet… there are other such devices as well. While work will continue to develop it and increase its productivity, manufacturing is obviously a problem.” With this, Aakash’s future seems bleak.
The HRD Ministry had floated a tender to procure five million Aakash tablets and the ministry has now thought of holding back this decision. To look into the Aakash tablet project, two committees have been formed. These committees will look into the National Mission on Education through ICT, NMEICT. This will enable a final view on the much-publicised tablet.
This step indicates that Raju is aiming at a reversal of an education policy and position that Sibal supported strongly and even the UPA felt strongly for this under Arjun Singh.
Until now, the Canadian manufacturer Datawind, suppose to supply Aakash has managed to supply about 20,000 tablets and 80,000 still remain to be supplied. And we must state that the deadline for getting all tablets is March 31.
To tell you, the HRD Ministry is very unhappy over this and a letter regarding this matter has been written to IIT Bombay. IIT Bombay tests and preps the Aakash tablet for target users, to take action against Datawind for not meeting delivery deadlines.
In case, Datawind fails to deliver the remaining tablets order, the ministry is considering getting Datawind blacklisted. Oops, beware Datawind, you need to step up your production it seems.
Secretary Higher Education Ashok Thakur stated that the project had suffered a major setback with Datawind.
It was added by Thakur that Datawind could have derived some margin if it delivered one lakh tablets in time so that Aakash could be assessed through student use. With this, the tender for five million tablets could have been taken forward.
The Aakash project is currently under review by two committees, one under academic Prof Goverdhan Mehta who is also Chairman BoG IIT Jodhpur and another headed by NIIT Chairman Rajendra Pawar.
Aakash was supposed to be made available to students at various educational institutes in the country at a low rate of Rs 1130 and this had gathered instant attention for the tablet. But the device also garnered negative publicity as popularity doesn’t come easy and Aakash knows it well.