India’s DataWind Launches $40 Tablet, Aakash 2
The world’s cheapest tablet, the Aakash 2, may have seen its share of criticism, but few can deny that the $40 tablet’s ambitions, though lofty, are also admirable.
The Aakash 2′s developer, DataWind, didn’t just launch a tablet back in November 2011, it also launched a quiet movement towards improved education in India. DataWind CEO Suneet Tuli wants to put the ultra-affordable tablet into the hands of hundreds of millions of Indian children and educators. Tuli believes providing access to information and education can be the foundation for solving a myriad of social problems.
Currently, the Indian government buys the Aakash tablet for INR 2,263 (roughly US$40) and charges students INR 1,150 (roughly US$20). The tablet comes preloaded with 24 apps. For now, those apps revolve around gaming, email, or chat, but that hopefully will change soon.
The Indian government has supported CEO Tuli’s ambitions from the start. Now, it wants to build a robust ecosystem of educational applications to run on the Aakash. The government formed a four-member technical committee that will focus on this ecosystem, and about 25 academic institutions and private companies plan to develop apps, with more to be added later this year.
In addition, IIT Madras is putting 5,000 engineering students through a four-day training course on Aakash and encouraging them to build applications for it. App development for the Aakash is focusing around educational tools, such as live broadcasts of lectures or interactive ebook apps.
While many of the companies and universities charged with developing apps for the Aakash 2 are based in India, U.S.-based Mango Learning is developing apps to teach mathematics through games on the Aakash. The company plans to provide one free app embedded in the Aakash and charge INR 49 (just under US$1) per download for any one of its over 400 math-learning apps.
The Aakash 2 gives us a glimpse of possibility into a world where low-income earners in developing countries have access to connectivity and all that it provides – education, information, and news. While cell phones have had successfully penetrated most world markets, internet access still lags by about 4 billion. The cause of this lag is a gap in affordability, and hopefully the Aakash 2 will help to close this gap.