Aakash Tablet Seeks to Close Digital Divide

In addition to the iPod, one of the many other great innovations the late Steve Jobs leaves behind is the iPad, the computerized tablet that revolutionized mobile technology last year.    While smartphones and tablets were around long before Jobs repackaged them, an editorial in The Times of India said “his genius lay in marrying the technology to a design aesthetic and interface that created a user experience compelling enough to manufacture a mass market for both products.”

However, in the developing world, as well as in developed countries still suffering from the economic downturn, US $499 for an iPad seems to be a lot of money to pay.

Well, in an ironic twist, it looks like Indian engineers are repackaging the iPad into a US $35 tablet that is meant to bridge the digital divide.  “The World’s Cheapest PC” is being manufactured by the UK-based company DataWind, which has been developed as part of India’s National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology that aims to link 25,000 colleges and 400 universities on the subcontinent in an e-learning program via an existing Sakshat portal.

While the original concept of the device was announced last year, it was officially launched under the name Aakash on Oct 5 in India.  The Government of India purchased 100,000 units of the device at $50 each and will be subsidizing it to sell it at the originally promised price of $35. The tablet is expected to be sold for $60 for retail consumers.

Of course, there have been many successful attempts of closing the digital gap throughout the developing world, including most notably One Laptop Per Child, Raspberry_Pi and 50×15.  But making a small, tablet-like device more available to those who would otherwise be left marginalized seems like an idea that could revolutionize mobile technology use in the global South.

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