The launch of the Aakash (Ubislate) tablet in India was a moment of great pride for the nation. It was a time of celebration for the masses. Finally a technology had been developed just for them!
Every big company, every organization has since then been talking about Aakash. How could a small company like Datawind develop such a breakthrough product? The question troubled many. The irony of the situation was that the product was being analyzed by a segment of the society comprising the highly influential, the technical experts/IT geeks who were powerful enough to make the world listen to them. The voice of the children of a lesser God, for whom the product has been developed, was lost in the noise of affluence.
The fundamental parameter for evaluating any product is whether it fulfills the objective sought to be achieved by it. The Government has launched National Literacy Mission through ICT which has three important components. First is to develop educational material to be studied on computer devices. Second is to make internet facilities available in all universities and colleges and the third is to make available low cost computer devices. Aakash is a part of the third objective. To develop a low cost tablet, the government floated tenders with specific technological specs. It was won by Datawind, a UK based company which agreed to deliver these devices at a price point of $50 to the Government. No other company was able to quote a price even anywhere near to it. Government got what it wanted-a computer tablet, and at a price point that it wanted. Low price was crucial for its distribution to a larger number of students. The government gave the specifications for the device to the company. It made IIT Rajasthan as the mediator to receive the tablets on its behalf and distribute it on pilot basis. The specifications were given in 2009. Aakash-1 was launched in October, 2011. The fact that new technologies come up every month is known to all. This was the case with Aakash too. Time had passed between its conception and delivery. The criticism that Aakash-1 is a “pre-beta technology” is not made in the right light. Yes, it has technology which may not be the latest as it is based on the 2009 specifications given by the Government. But the bigger question is that does its technology serve the purpose for which it was developed? The answer is yes, it does. The device has been developed for those at the bottom of the economic pyramid in India. It is for those who do not have access to computer devices and will not have it unless such low cost devices are made available to them. The purpose is to bring them into the mainstream. The device has an in-built educational ecosystem that facilitates learning with the device which justifies its usefulness. The device is a catalyst for the Government’s effort to spread e-literacy. Unfortunately, this important aspect has been missed by most analysts. They are comparing the Ubislate tablet with the iPad of Apple and other laptops. Yes, it does not have advanced technology as an iPad. This was known to us when we gave the specifications to Datawind to develop the product at such a low price point. But what makes us think that a child who has never used any computer device will require an iPad, leave aside the fact that he can never afford one. Should that deny the child the experience of beginning computing? The device does what it was designed to do. Based on the feedback received from its usage, Datawind has developed Ubislate7+ and this has GPRS connectivity which means that it can be used as a phone to make calls and also to get on the internet anywhere you get a cell phone signal. It has the following features-
Specifications of Ubislate 7+ Tablet PC
§ Google Android Operating system 2.3
§ Cortex A8, 700 MHz Process with HD Video Co Processor
§ 256 MB RAM
§ Storage: (Internal) 2GB Flash / (External) 2GB to 32GB Supported
§ Peripherals: 2 Standard USB Ports (Ver. 2.0)
§ Audio Out: 3.5mm jack
§ Display and Resolution: 7″ inch Display with 800×480 pixels
§ Supported Document Formats: All Version Office Document formats and more.
§ High Quality Video Streaming & HD Quality Video Playback
§ Input Devices: Resistive Touch Screen display
§ Connectivity with GPRS & Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11 a/b/g
§ Battery Time: Up to 180 minutes of battery, AC adaptor 200.240 volts
Optional Accessorizes with Ubislate 7+ (to be available soon)
§ Car charger
§ keyboard with Case
§ The main features of upgraded version are more battery time, more processor speed and new version of operating system; besides the fact that you can use it as a phone.
There is no other device which is even close to offering what Ubislate7+ does at its price. The icing on the cake is that it does so by manufacturing the product in India. This is going to go a long way in developing India’s abilities to create computer devices besides gainfully employing our youth and keeping prices low.
The confidence of the “aam aadmi” in the device is reflected in the large amount of pre-orders Datawind has received. It has crossed 2 million and is growing every day. We need a device which is affordable to the common man. He should be able to buy it even without government support. The government is not supposed to be a doer of all activities. It is a facilitator. The device is a success if he has an easy access to it and can buy it anytime from the market. This not only reduces the government’s burden but also decreases the dependence of the individual on the government for such critical technologies. The Government and the developers of Aakash realize that our students need the best. But simultaneously, they also realize that we need to include millions of our children into the category of “students”. Aakash shall be the roof over the heads of all these less-fortunate children. The elite few who have no need for it, have been vehemently criticizing it, drawing clouds over the sky and plunging the dreams of these millions of children into darkness. Let the ‘Aakash’ bestow its light on these buds and nurture them to blossom as fragrant flowers.