After a brief lull, we are back to talking about the nation's low-cost computing dream, the Aakash tablet. Buzz is that the government is planning to bring the tablet further within the reach of the masses by pricing it at Rs 1,500. Speaking at an event in the national capital, Telecom and IT minister, Kapil Sibal, said, “I asked Rajat Moona (director general, C-DAC) to help us in Aakash. Let us take that Aakash to the people of this country for a sum of Rs 1,500. Each student must have a Aakash in his/her hand so that they can see the world with it.”
Sibal opined that there is a need to obtain the know-how to offer cutting-edge technology at affordable prices to the masses. He believes that the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) should develop such technologies.
Cheaper for the masses now?
In December last year, speaking at a Reverse Buyer Seller Meet organised by the Telecom Equipment and Service Export Promotion Council, Sibal did hint at a Rs 1,900 price tag for the tablet. Sibal had said that the Aakash tablet had all the amenities of any modern tablet and the cost would come down.
“Aakash is a tablet which at the moment costs USD 49. It will come down to USD 35 very soon. It has all the amenities of any modern tablet,” reports quoted him as saying. Speaking about the promised price drop, he added, “The capacitive (touch) screen is imported at a cost of USD 22 or around USD 20. The manufacturing cost is USD 2. If you were to set up that manufacturing unit in India, the cost will come down automatically from USD 49 to USD 29.”
Sibal stated that the government is in the process of obtaining Cabinet approval to manufacture 50 lakh units of the Aakash tablet in India and then float a global tender to begin its production. Sibal believes that production in such huge volumes should further drive the prices down.
Quite contrary to what the have-nots have come to expect from the nation’s low-cost computing dream that is the Aakash 2, the government recently told the Lok Sabha that students will not receive the initial one lakh units of the Aakash 2. Instead, the initial lot will be used for testing, and empowering teachers. What's more, there is currently no proposal to provide any of the initial units to students.
In a written statement to the Lok Sabha, Union Human Resource Development Minister, MM Pallam Raju, stated that there is currently no proposal to offer the initial units of the Aakash 2 to students. “Presently, there is no proposal in this regard… In the first phase one lakh tablets are for the purpose of testing and teacher empowerment. They would not be distributed to students in the first phase,” he said. Raju was asked whether the government planned to offer Aakash 2 tablets to students, especially those from poor backgrounds and rural areas for free.
This development is expected to raise quite a few eyebrows, as it was widely believed the Aakash 2 would come to students first, just like its predecessor, the Aakash, aimed to.