Aakash May Not Help Bridge the Digital Divide
Monday, October 17, 2011
Developments in the information technology world have been catching the headlines in the last few days. We lost “magician” Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc., none of whose innovations I see being used by poor people.
The Indian government launched the $35 (Rs. 1,700) tablet called Aakash, which Union minister Kapil Sibal called a “tablet for the poor.”
Also, the government released a telecom policy that, perhaps belatedly, proposes to give infrastructure sector status to the telecom industry.
All these developments are related. While Jobs’s gifts to humanity are not affordable to everyone, the $35 tablet shows Indian politicians’ desire to play to the gallery.
Sibal, who is both information technology and education minister, says the product is targeted at the education sector and has hoped it will allow a large number of students to access a device at an affordable price. But the relevance of the $35 tablet is questionable.
India has one of the lowest ratio of teachers-just 456 teachers per million people.
Seventy-two percent of our primary schools have only three teachers or less. Also, 25% of teachers were absent from school, and only about half were teaching, during unannounced visits to a nationally representative sample of government primary schools.
How is the $35 tablet going to solve any of these problems?