Photo: Aakash Website
The world’s cheapest computer has been introduced to the Indian market. The so called Aakash project, a tablet introduced by the Human Resource Development Ministry, is supposed to revolutionize learning in Indian universities and colleges. The first version of the tablet was introduced in October 2011 but unresolved issues among the parties involved in the project seemed impossible to resolve. Now, a few months later, the project seems to be back on track.
Dozens of the new tablets have been distributed and are currently being field-tested by teachers all across India. Sample tablets will also be sent out to students for testing and feedback in the near future. The tablet will be available to Indian students in 416 universities and 20,000 colleges, at a subsidized price of 1,132 rupees (approx. $21), which equals 50% of the 2,263 rupees the government pays per tablet. The manufacturer behind Aakash-2, Data Wind, will also introduce a commercial version called “UbiSlate” which will cost between 3,499 and 4,299 rupees. Data Wind has been contracted to deliver 100,000 tablets to the Indian Institute of Technology (I.I.T.) Bombay over the next six months. The I.I.T. has been chosen to spearhead the project.
Aakash-2 – the world’s cheapest computer
The new version of the tablet weights less than a pound, more than a mobile phone but still little enough to make it fit comfortably in one hand. It has a capacitive touch screen which allows simple and fast navigation. The new version has 256 megabytes of RAM, a USB port, a headphone jack and a small slot for a memory card, which can be used to expand the external memory to 32 gigabytes.
On the inside, Aakash-2 has been upgraded. While the old version had 2 gigabytes internal storage capacity, the new version has 4 gigabytes. The operating system has also been upgraded from Android 2.2 to 2.3 and the new device has an 800-megahertz ARM Cortex-A8 processor, compared to a 366 megahertz ARM 11 configuration in the old product.
The Aakash-2 will come in two different versions, one with SIM card, which allows to use the tablet as a phone as well, and another version without SIM card but a second USB port instead. In terms of Internet connectivity, the device can only be used with Wi-Fi, mobile dongles cannot be plugged in.