India's Communications and IT minister Kapil Sibal has publicly acknowledged the importance of technology and the need for advanced but affordable consumer electronics in the country. Sibal has recently announced that the government will be offering low-cost tablets in an effort to put them into the hands of every student and consumer who needs a mobile device.
This year, the Aakash 3 will be exclusively available from the Indian government at a nominal price of between INR1,300 and INR1,500 (US$24 to $28). The government purchases the tablets from DataWind, British manufacturer of Aakash and Aakash 2, at INR2,262 ($42) a piece. (However, SP, an EBN reader, told me that last year in January, when he applied for an Aakash 2, it was priced at INR2,999.)
The seven inches-wide Aakash 3 tablet, which functions on both Android and Linux operating systems, comes with a SIM card slot, WiFi, a faster processor than the previous generation, and improved memory capacity. This is the first in a series of Android-based tablets first manufactured by Quad Electronic Solutions, an India-based company.
Manufacturing explosion coming
A total of eight local manufacturers are going to be adding the Aakash tablet to their production lines after members of the committee of the Aakash project said they would prefer multiple vendors for the tablet. The plan is to use indigenous components in the manufacturing, instead of Chinese. As of last year, when ordering an Aakash 2 there was no certainty for when the tablet would be delivered, and the waiting time could be long. This must have pushed the government to aim at multiple vendors.
arc surrounding the Aakash tablet.
Indeed, the Aakash tablet is about to create a manufacturing explosion in India. Despite the big electronics players not showing much interest at the beginning, now companies like Intel are excited to become part of the project. Let's not forgot that the Aakash 3 includes a SIM card slot. Therefore, the tablet can also be used as a communications device, replacing the smartphone, and bringing the two-in-one “phablet” concept closer to users.
I hope you'll agree with me that this is great news for all-level students, schools, and low-end consumers of electronics. You might also agree that this new initiative of the Indian government not only will give a great push to education and the electronics supply chain industry, but also might become a great example for other nations. Might this be the start of a tablet-based education revolution on top of a manufacturing revolution? That's what seems to be happening, isn't it? (See: Manufacturing Tablets for Kids & Education.)
Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi once said: “Every worthwhile accomplishment, big or little, has its stages of drudgery and triumph; a beginning, a struggle, and a victory.”
Everything seems to indicate that the ongoing Aakash project is going to confirm Gandhi's insight.