Soon the students of various Universities of India are about to be at par with the world as far as the education standards are concerned, or at least as is proposed by the Government of India. Back in October 2011, the Ministry of Human Resource Development under the unparalleled vision of Union HRD Minister Mr. Kapil Sibal, announced the launch of a low cost tablet computer called ‘Aakash’ in a tie up with DataWind, the manufacturing company of these low cost tablets also commercially known as UbiSlate 7. The tablet is currently available for sale on the official website http://aakashtablet.com/ for Rs. 2999.
This is a welcome announcement as this would open endless possibilities in which not just the students but the people who cannot afford the expensive iPads and Tabs can lay their hands on an Android running portable touchscreen device for their business and leisure. What’s more important to note is that since the main focus of the Government was to empower the students and introduce the use of technology in education across the country, these tablets will be made available to the students of various state Universities at half the price or completely free of cost. The remaining cost in this case will be borne half by the Government and half by the Universities themselves.
The seriousness and the importance that the MHRD ministry is giving the Aakash project can be gauged from the fact that they aren’t just pushing low cost substandard tablets. When these tablets were launched initially, around 30000 units were handed over to select students and IIT Rajasthan in particular, to test and send in reviews and feedback. After paying close attention to the feedback the company and Government, decided to revamp the tablet with better specs to ensure trouble free performance.
The new Aakash 2 tablet also called as UbiSlate 7+ was announced in April 2012 and has a 7 inch resistive touchscreen, runs Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread, which is a stable OS, 700 MHz processor that was upgraded from 366 MHz, 256 MB RAM, 2GB internal memory with expandability option via memory card. WIFI, USB with 3G USB dongle recognition for 3G connection, SIM card support for full phone functionality and GPRS internet; which was missing in the earlier version. Along with this it has an Office Document Editor and viewer, PDF and picture viewer and full HD video playback functionality making it more or less a complete package at such a low price.
The response by the masses and students has been overwhelming with around 25000 tablets being pre-booked by students from Mumbai University alone. The official website is also flooded with orders of the tablets, so much so that Mr. Suneet Singh Tuli, the CEO of DataWind had to leave an official note on the home page urging the buyers to be patient while they process the orders. The tablet also got a boost in the 2012 Union budget with the Government allocating Rs. 765 crore for the Aakash project to fast track it.
The possibility that this low cost tablet has brought to the table is that the entire Indian education system at various levels can be connected through a various e-learning programs and student-teacher communication can be made easy via internet and other means across long distances. E books could replace the physical text books and entire syllabus can be held in a single USB drive, which can be easily carried around by students.
To ensure that the end cost of the tablets does not exceed the Rs. 2999 mark, Government has involved various Indian companies and educational institutions like BHEL, Indian Telephone Industries, IIT Rajasthan, IIT Mumbai along with DataWind to make sure the quality is not compromised while making this low cost ‘Made in India tablet’.
This is a great initiative by the Government of India and if it goes as per plan Indian education could get a much needed boost and the students and masses can both benefit from it and India as a nation can be closer to the technological goings on in the world.