For a country that prides itself on its software talent, India’s hardware dreams are, well, pipe-dreams.
A decade ago, it was the Simputer, a handheld low-cost Linux-based computer, that was all the rage in India.
But despite the tall claims of how the Simputer would be the hardware savior of India and other Third World countries little came of the $220 Simputer initiative.
Today, no one even talks about that junk and we doubt anyone even makes it.
As if one bad experience were not bad enough, a new initiative has sprung up with the blessing and funding of the Indian government to make a $35 tablet computer called Sakshat. This new nonsense has been underway for over a year now.
Again, the grand hope is that Sakshat will – yawn – bridge the digital divide in India where the gap between the haves and have-nots is widening and where even to this day starvation deaths are not infrequent.
Over the last 12-months or so, millions of dollars has been squandered on this 7-inch Linux-based touchscreen tablet that yet again is expected to provide low-cost hardware to the masses.
Other specs of Sakshat’s Android tablet include 2GB RAM, 32GB internal storage, 2 USB ports, PDF reader, Open Office, web browsing and video conferencing.
The Indian government now wants to provide 10,000 units to IIT-Rajasthan by the end of June and distribute another 90,000 to the states in the coming months.
The grandiose plan is to subsidize these units to the end consumer by 50% so that they pay only Rs 1,000.00.
India’s clueless politicians expect the price of Sakshat will eventually come down to $10, bringing it within reach of most Indians, hundreds of millions of whom live on less than $2 a day.
A tablet computer is no joke. We’re familiar with tablets since we use the Apple iPad 2 tablet. It’s a great product but a complex product to get right even at a price-point of several hundred dollars.
It requires a strong processor, WiFi or 3G connectivity to log on to the net, frequent updates and a vast ecosystem of applications. Plus, a support and logistics infrastructure.
To expect the bumbling babus in the India’s incompetent and corrupt government and bureaucracy can accomplish all of this with a $35 Tablet PC is to engage in day-dreaming.
Except for Apple, none of the tablet vendors have made much headway in this competitive and tough landscape.
What India’s Human Resources Development (Education) ministry ought to do instead of pissing away millions of dollars on these moronic initiatives is to improve the library infrastructure in every nook and corner of the country and provide free computing resources to all.
Every public library in the U.S. that we’ve been to has free Internet access and a bunch of computers where members can log on, browse their favorite newspapers, social networking sites, play video games or research their home-work/special projects. That ought to be the model India must embrace to provide access to computing and Internet resources to the poor and less-privileged sections of society.
Sadly, most of India’s public libraries are in pitiful shape and little or nothing is being done to address their inadequacies Instead of strengthening the library systems and making them the neighborhood computer and Internet hubs, India chooses to waste millions on pie in the sky hardware schemes that lead nowhere.
Sakshat profile on Wiki