Can’t we go India’s way?

19 Oct

LAST Wednesday, India unveiled the world’s cheapest tablet computer, a feat actualized under a programme of the Human Resources Development Ministry called National Mission on Education Through Information and Communication Technology (nme-ict).

$35 Aakash

Branded Aakash, the tablet PC is to be sold at the price of US$35 to post-secondary students. The development came nearly two years after the government of India announced its intention to launch a low-cost computing device. Aakash was developed and manufactured by DataWind in partnership with IIT Rajasthan, under the HRD ministry’s Mission on Education Through Information and Communication Technology (NME-ICT).

Technically, Aakash is a seven-inch Android 2.2 touch screen tablet that has an HD video co-processor for a multimedia experience and core graphics accelerator for faster application support, and comes with DataWind’s UbiSurfer browser. The device includes Wi-Fi connectivity and support for optional 3G modems.

Two USB ports are integrated into the unit allowing pen-drives, external keyboards, webcams, dongles and other peripherals to be attached, according to DataWind CEO, Suneet Singh Tuli.

100,000 free PCs

A pilot run of 100,000 units will be given to students for free, with the first 500 handed out at the launch, while under the NME-ICT, a further 10 million units will be purchased by government from DataWind and sold to students at $35.

Well, that is the latest from India, a country colonized by Britain just like us. Though an Indian, Jawaharlal Nehru became first prime minister on August 15, 1947, with Lord Mountbatten, hitherto the viceroy as Governor-General, India became independent of the British a year later in 1948.

That means India got independence ahead of us by 12 years, but is it the 12-year difference that is making the difference between us, in terms of development? Personally, I was moved by the NME-ICT programme through which Aakash was delivered. It simply shows that the minister in charge and the government he works for have the love of the down-trodden in the country at heart. Have we truly had any leader that loved his fellow countrymen?

“The rich have access to the digital world, the poor and ordinary have been excluded. Aakash will end that digital divide,” Telecoms and Education Minister Kapil Sibal was quoted as saying at the launch of the tablet PC.

Stories, all the way

Here we feed on stories, year-in, year-out, with more stories to explain why schools are not wired for ICT, why the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) programme is where it is, and why our OEMs are struggling enterprises.

My take is that this economy can be fired into the orbit of growth by the simple act of conscientiously implementing our ICT4D Plan and plugging in the OEMs to generate employment and keep our youths engaged. Since we are yet to do that, our youths find attention in joining militias; little wonder bombs are going off all over the place.

At $35, Aakash is affordable; a mere N5,250. Even at the $60 it will be sold commercially, it is still very affordable; just N9,000. If I know the Indians, they’ll mass-produce Aakash and ship them here, and we’ll all buy, all to the detriment of our own OEMs and the country generally.

Who will take this up as a challenge and deliver Nigeria, ICT-wise?

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