“Aakash” is an Android-based tablet computer claimed to be designed and developed by a UK based company DataWind primarily as a platform for audio-visual media including books, periodicals, movies, music, games, and web content. It is planned to be manufactured in India as a low cost device for urban, college students in order to attempt to bridge the digital divide. The commercial version of the tablet will be retailed under the brand name UbiSlate 7.
The original prototype was unveiled in 2010, purported as a “$35 laptop”. The device was formally launched on 5 October 2011 as Aakash, made by the London-based manufacturing company DataWind. Aakash will be assembled at DataWind’s new production centre in the southern city of Hyderabad. Initially, the device will be sold to the Government of India at $50. It is expected to be sold for $60 in the retail stores.
The device has been developed as part of the National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology that aims to link 25,000 colleges and 400 universities on the subcontinent in an e-learning program via an existing Sakshat portal.
Since the unveiling of “Aakash” by India’s Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), there have been various observations showing that the tablet is not ready for the market yet and it got thumbs down by CNN and BBC .
Satish Jha of OLPC, that created the first low-cost laptop for educating the underprivileged believes that MHRD got the question wrong. He was quoted to say that it was not about a cheap laptop. The burning question is about how do we educate the underprivileged children who have enormous potential to learn and create and make the world a better place. His was a sharply critical observation positioning OLPC as a tested, quality, gold standard of education and any effort to develop just a cheap laptop to a price point losing the focus on education. He also found the MHRD’s cheap tablet not ready to be considered at alpha stage of product creation and observed that in a highly competitive market Government need not have intervened and instead focused on education for the children who have been denied quality education for generations.