Today in New Delhi, union minister for Human Resource Development, Shri Kapil Sibal unveiled a low cost computing-cum-access device. The expected price of the showcased model is going to be around US$35 (approximately Rs 1,640) per unit, which is expected to gradually dip to about US$20 and eventually to around US10$.

Shri Kapil Sibal unveiling the low cost computing-cum-access device, in New Delhi today.
Source: Press Information Bureau, Government Of India .

Since the ongoing reduction in cost and enhancing the capabilities require constant research and development, IIT Rajasthan and other technical institutions are setting up research teams to look into a wide range of potential issues in the course of achieving the ultimate goal in terms of price and quality.

The press release issued by the Ministry of HRD also states the primary aim, which is, to reach these low cost devices to students and teachers of all colleges and universities, which will enable them to gain access to high-quality digital content. As stated, the three cardinal principles of the Education Policy viz., access, equity and quality could be served well by providing connectivity to all educational institutions, providing low cost and affordable access cum computing devices to students and teachers and providing high quality e-content free of cost to all learners in the Country. National Mission on Education through ICT (NMEICT) encompasses all the three elements.

Connectivity to Universities and Colleges has already started. Nearly 8500 Colleges in the country have already been connected, high quality e-content in various subjects is being created and under the National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL), nearly 500 web based and video courses are available and uploaded on “sakshat”, YouTube and NPTEL portals and another 1100 courses in various disciplines of engineering and science are getting generated in 4 quadrant approach.

For technical analysis and specifications of the device, click here.

The ministry started its efforts, subsequent to lukewarm response from known corporates in this sector, by holding discussions on this concept with a group of professors / experts at IISc, Bangalore, IIT Kanpur, IIT Kharagpur, IIT Madras and IIT Bombay. B.Tech and M.Tech students were guided to produce the motherboard for such low cost devices with ample room for upgrade / change in hardware components. One motherboard design was generated under Ministry’s guidance in the B.Tech project of a student at VIT, Vellore. The cost of bill of material worked to 47 $ at that point of time. The motherboard PCB was fabricated at IIT Kanpur. It could be seen that, by customizing the device to the needs of learners across the country, and utilizing the capabilities of CPU suitable for the purpose, it was possible to substantially reduce the prices of such access-cum-computing devices. Then, a wave of collaboration with such interested partners began.

Ever since, various teams have been moving back and forth independently, yet constantly interacting with the HRD Ministry and improving upon design parameters and customization guidance for Indian students. The efforts of some of the teams working with those design philosophies were presented today. The aim is to reach such devices to the students of colleges and Universities and to provide these institutions a host of choices of low cost access devices around Rs. 1500/- ($35) or less in near future.

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