HRD in rethink mode over Sibal's Aakash tablet

HRD in rethink mode over Sibal's Aakash tablet

The Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry is rethinking on the former minister Kapil Sibal’s much-hyped proposal to provide low-cost access-cum-computing device Aakash to students.

“It was never meant for distribution among students. The proposal was to provide tablets to institutions (on demand) for the purpose of research and Innovation. The Centre would bear 50 per cent of the cost in making the devices available to them,” Higher Education Secretary Ashok Thakur said on Friday, when asked about the status of the proposal.

Former HRD minister Sibal launched the first series of Aakash tablets, manufactured by London and Canada-based firm Dadawind, in October 6, 2011, almost five years after the idea to provide low cost tablet PC to students was first mooted by his ministry.

In the first phase, the tablet PC was to be distributed among post-secondary students through the institutions at which they were studying. The ministry had plans to make the device available to school students, studying in class 9th onwards, in the 12th Five Year Plan.

A few months back, the ministry was preparing a Cabinet note to procure 50 lakh Aakash-II, a new avatar of the much-hyped tablet PC developed by IIT-Bombay and Datawind. But the plan was been put on hold and Ministry has set up a committee headed by Rajendra Pawar to evaluate the “feasibility” of the technology used in manufacturing Aakash tablets.

“On the basis of the report, we will take further action on whether to proceed with the Cabinet note (or not),” Thakur said.

The 7” touch screen tablet was promised to be made available to students at a subsidised rate of Rs 1130.

The HRD Minister MM Pallam Raju said, “Aakash was a very good initiative. It generated lot of interest. But today technology and devices are changing every day. Many suppliers have come to the market.”

The Ministry will continue to work on the product as long as development of the product is concerned, he said adding that IIT-Bombay is now working on development of Aakash-III, a new version with much advanced features.

“The ultimate aim should be to enable a student to access content at an affordable price through enabling environment and exploiting the 'National Mission on Education using ICT' platform,” he said, maintaining that introduction of Aakash in market had brought down the cost of tablet PCs.

The minister, however, expressed concern over slow production of Aakash-II by Datawind, describing it as a “big challenge”.

“That is where the failure has come," he said, adding that his Ministry has written to IIT-Bombay to take action if Datawind fails to supply the devices by March 31 this year.

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