Reaching the sky

Reaching the sky

The dream of producing the world’s cheapest computing device in India has been realised with the launch of Akash, the tablet computer that costs just Rs 3,000. When the union human resource development ministry unveiled its prototype last year it was expected to cost only less than Rs 1,500. It was a great improvement on cheap computers designed elsewhere in the world.

Akash will be made available to students in India at a subsidised price of Rs 1,125. It can help to narrow the digital divide in the country by taking technology to the lowest segments of society. Akash is not a toy device but is adequate for normal computing. It comes with all the basic functions of a web browser, multimedia player, Wi Fi  and video conferencing facility.

The plan is to use the tablet computer to expand literacy programmes and to bring large numbers of  poor children, who are now left out, into the educational system and introduce them to the world of technology. About one lakh tablet computers will be released by January next year and fresh versions of the device, based on feedback from the users, will be introduced later.

Along with the supply of tablets, the number of schools and teachers must also increase and  educational facilities must expand. When these are there the tablet computer can be a powerful tool to bridge the present gaps in literacy and access to and awareness of technology. Its uses, however, need not be confined to the field of education.

The device will be of use to many others like farmers who will benefit from easy access to vital and relevant information. Combined with high-speed mobile broadband it can have a positive impact on areas like communications, entertainment and media. Print and visual media may be able to exploit the opportunities offered by the new device. It can also make e-business and online financial transactions possible for much larger numbers of people than now.

The immediate use of the device may however be confined to the field of education. In course of time it may even be possible to reduce the price to as low as Rs 500 a piece, when larger numbers are produced. But even at the current price this is an achievement that the country can be proud of.

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