How far is Aakash?

Four years ago, Tata Motors unveiled the Nano. India got a unique global recognition of an industrial nation with capability of breakthrough innovation. The world recognized India’s mastery of engineering, manufacturing and management. Soon afterwards, a number of hurdles simply spoiled the show. Tata Motors failed to build on the early excitement surrounding the launch of the world’s cheapest car. Nano didn’t flood the market as expected. Is Aakash also going to meet the same fate?

When Kapil Sibal launched this very ambitious project of $35 tablet- Aakash, there was a huge fanfare. It was meant to leapfrog the application of technology in Indian education system, and to assist millions of school children in India. Datawind was chosen the manufacturer of the tablet. IIT, Rajasthan was providing specifications and technical support. Aakash generated huge excitement among gadget geeks and internationally renowned columnists. When Datawind offered Aakash’s slightly more expensive cousin, the UbiSlate7+, the company in less than a week got orders for 60,000 tablets.

However, as of now both Aakash and UbiSlate7+ projects are facing delay. I, personally am disgusted by such half-hearted endeavours by the government and the technical institutions. The deficiencies pointed on Aakash were its slow speed, quick heating, poor battery life, the resistive touch-screen, and support to only Wi-Fi for accessing the Internet. Initially it appeared that the manufacturer was having production constraints, but now as it appears the Aakash will require major upgradation and may not reach the market pretty soon. The Aakash project should not end up with adding one more in the list of failed tablets. One must remember the history of OLPC (One Laptop Per Child), that was MIT’s initiative aimed at deploying millions of rugged, ultra low-cost, individually connected laptops to children between 6 to 12 years of age of developing nations that lack access to such devices.

I understand technology comes with it’s glitches. I only wish more engineers would have helped Aakash to succeed. I wish government and institutions would have supported this project alike. Aakash may get back on track and make it big. But both Aakash and Nano put together have given us many lessons to learn. India must go for a real big push to enhance it’s RnD and manufacturing sector. Government must invest more on technology for masses.

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