Brilliant tool

The content should be in Indian languages.

The launch of Aakash 2, an affordable computer that caters to the basic needs of students in the country, by President Pranab Mukherjee early this week, can turn out to be an important event  for education in the country. The first version of the Aakash tablet was a disappointment. Though it was cheap it was not well received for technical and other reasons.  But even the failure helped to show that a cheap tablet was possible. The idea, the software and the hardware, were all fine. They only needed some refinement. IIT Bombay, with support from C-DAC, helped the company, the UK-based Datawind, with that and Aakash is now an Indian product which surprises the world as the cheapest computer. It is powered by a processor running at 1 GHz with 512 MB RAM and has a 7 inch ‘capacitative’ screen.  The tablet is powered by a battery that works for 3-4 hours of normal operations. It could become an efficient educational tool if it can be put in the hands of college and school students.

The Human Resource Development (HRD)  ministry plans to sell the tablet to students at a price of Rs 1,130 after subsiding it to the tune of about Rs 1,000. If the state governments also come forward  with subsidy it can be made available to students free of cost. The commercial version will be available at Rs 3,500. The government will  distribute the tablet  first to students in engineering colleges and universities and later to those in other educational institutions.  The idea is to provide the budget tablet to all students in the next five years. To make them really useful to the students content has to be developed in Indian languages  and broadband connectivity has to be increased. It has been announced that all villages will be connected by fibre optics by the end of 2013.

Once the students have access to the tablets they will benefit not only educationally but in many other areas like health and  entertainment.  Those from rural, remote and other backward areas will benefit the most because the cheap computational device will open a whole new world to them. While poor physical and human infrastructure have hindered their development,  Aakash  2 will help to empower them in many ways. It must be ensured that the programme is implemented according to the schedule drawn up now.

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