When the Kindle Fire was released at $200, people immediately thought about what it would mean for students.
Then, the Aakash tablet was released in India for a whopping $50.
It’s no accident or good fortune that led to the tablet being made that cheaply, though. The Indian government worked closely with British developer DataWind to produce a computer that was cheap enough that impoverished rural students could afford them.
Originally, they promised students a $35 laptop that ran on the Linux operating system, but later announced they would be making a tablet for that price instead. The switch was met with severe pessimism, but just a little over a year later, the dream mostly became reality.
The tablet is slightly more expensive than the target cost, but with the government promising to fund half of it for students, it brings the cost to $25, including shipping and insurance.
The tablet began production on Oct. 5, 2011. It will be sold in stores under the name of UbiSlate 7 for just $60. While it’s doubtful that sales will make up for what the government is putting up for students, it will tip the scales a little more evenly.
Aakash, Hindi for ‘sky,’ was created to link India’s higher learning institutions through one online learning program. The program will be populated with different sub-programs, all designed to further students educations.
India’s job market has shifted in recent years from being agricultural to technology and service oriented. The change means that their educational practices have had to grow tremendously to allow their students to keep up. As the job market expands, workers who are educated and technologically savvy will be in high demand. India’s program to bring the tablets to poorer students is a way for them to ensure that everyone has a fair chance to compete for the best jobs.
It may seem like a lot of work for one tablet to accomplish, but it can succeed with a little bit of effort from everyone. The tablet will give students access to the internet at all times, and the solar energy feature will allow them to always have power. This means that the entire world is at their fingertips at all times. Students who are willing to work a little harder than most will be able to read news reports and essays from the greatest minds in the world. Students like this are the ones that will be sought after when they graduate.
The tablets come pre-loaded with educational programs from the National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology that will help students along the subjects that the mission feels are important for its students. Since these are the experts in the country, they’ve based their projected lessons on research and knowledge. The system is incredibly hands-on from the government, but perhaps the unifying function of it is just what students need.
Aahash may not change everything, but the fact that a country was willing to sponsor the creation of a computing device for its students may well flip what education in India looks like. If the United States were to take similar measures, it could very well trigger a wave of educational reform.