Speaking with members of the press, M. M. Pallam Raju, India’s Human Resource Development (HRD) minister said that the efforts should be concentrated to help students gain access to content and that users themselves will determine the nature of the device that will help them gain knowledge through the content that is provided.
The latest stand by the Government is a reversal of what Kapil Sibal has originally championed. The initial program was to provide Aakash to students at a 50% discount. Raju said, “Aakash is a tablet which will enable you to access the content. But there are others who have come up…students will pick up whatever serves the purpose better and affordable. We will continue to work on the product as long as development of the product is concerned.”
“Let’s not get obsessed with hardware. The overall (issue) is how we enable students. Let the students decide which device is useful”, he added.
The project hasn’t been following the track that was laid down. The original lot of tablets provided by Datawind in 2011 has been hugely criticized because of the low performance. The issue is that the Government hasn’t yet received the 100,000 tablets it was meant to receive from Datawind according to the contract. With delays in delivery, new vendors have started bringing out their devices with better performance than that of Aakash.
Ashok Thakur, the Higher Education Secretary, is speaking with the same noncommittal tone and hasn’t provided any information as to when will the Indian Government actually go ahead with its plans to procure 5 million additional tablets.
Thakur said, “The idea was, once we receive the 100,000 Aakash 2 (revised version of the tablet), we will be more confident to proceed further. On the last review, we have a lot of gap. Also technology is not a stagnant thing.”
States like Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh have taken their own initiatives parallel to that of the central government plans and are going to supply laptops students for free.