Aakash Still in Aakash

It happens with most of the government projects. And following the same practice, Aakash, the tablet, was launched. Print and digital media beamed Kapil Sibal’s beautiful face with Aakash in his hand lifted towards Aakash as a trophy won after a grueling game. It promised to bridge the digital divide by reaching to 220 million students at a price unimaginable, only $35. As reported few hundreds of Aakash were distributed to the students of IITs for feedback. A little known company was to manufacture and supply it, and a newly born IIT was made responsible for fixing the specifications, its management and distribution.Many countrymen and I too got excited and waited.

There are already many branded tablets in use, with the Apple’s iPad at the top that sells in million every year. In US, and perhaps some top end ones in India too, many schools have made it mandatory to be carried by their students. Many cheap budget tablets are also commercially available in India too, but certainly not at the price of Aakash that was claimed to be the cheapest as the Tata Motors’ Nano among the passenger vehicles.

Very soon after the launch, the news of the controversies started appearing. Datawind has supplied 10,000 tablets till now, at Rs 2,276 each to IIT Rajasthan. Have they reached 10,000 users? No one lnows.
HRD kept mum and that confused the status. Kapil Sibal would have gone for a press conference and cleared the information on the mess. As reported, while according to the government, Datawind will not be associated with it anymore. The manufacturer claims to have no”official or unofficial” information about it.Further, the three older IITs also are now involved. I don’t understand why three and not one could have done it. Why couldn’t the government name a project CEO? Perhaps, this is the way a government works.
Interestingly, the Aakash related news and views have kept on appearing at regular intervals in print and digital media. It’s a good indicator of the interest of the people at large in the project. Some are:

HCL is planning to bid for the Aakash 2 tablets after the government releases an expression of interest for this purpose.

BSNL in the meantime announced to launch three tablets in partnership with Pantel, a company based in Noida, the cheapest one with a aprice tag of Rs 3,250, a few hundred rupees more than the commercial version of Aakash tablet.

The HRD ministry has also kept itself in news. It is now working for Aakash2 and rightly so. If iPad can have iPad2, why can’t Aakash2? And look at the high power top echelons of technocrats involved. As reported, a committee headed by Secretary, IT, R Chandrashekhar and with IIT directors and other stakeholders on board has already started working to take the Aakash 2 forward.

Here are some interesting media headlines:

Has the battery run out on Aakash tablet?; Aakash: flight of fancy?; Kapil Sibal’s Low-Cost Aakash Tablet May be Shelved; Confusion Reigns Over Datawind’s Future With Aakash;; Going for Cheap: India’s $35 Laptop; Aakash vs Apple: The Aspirational Indian Picks iPad; Is India’s $50 Computer Tablet Really Getting Shelved?; The Aakash is falling; Datawind quashes Aakash runours

Union Minister, Ms D Purandeswari promises the upgraded version of Aakash tablet to be launched in April or May without hike in price. I would have liked a Kapil Sibal‘s statement.

And I wish the dreams of the millions of hands waiting to touch Aakash get materialized.

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