Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Aakash tablet: After six months only 366 reach students

For all the fanfare that accompanied the launch of the Aakash tablet, only 366 units of the tablet have reached students. The units were given to students at the time of the launch on October 5 so that they could test them and provide their feedback. The information may not be widely known but it has been in the public domain since March 14 when minister for human resource development Kapil Sibal replied to a question about the Aakash project in Lok Sabha.

These 366 tablets are part of 650 units that IIT Rajasthan had accepted from the lot of 6,440 tablets that were supplied to it by Datawind. According to Sibal's statement in Parliament, IIT-Rajasthan "rejected rest of the lots as the number of defective LCADs (Aakash tablets) in those lots exceeded the stipulated 5% of devices".

In reply to a question if there was any criteria based on which distribution was made, Sibal said the tablets were just for the testing. "The first phase of 1,00,000 tablets were targeted to the students in higher technical education institutions so as to further ascertain technical feedback on its operation and usability," he said. "Since these LCADs were for the purpose of testing, no norms for distribution of LCADs to students were laid down." The minister also informed Parliament that Datawind has now been asked to supply better tablets at the same price.

"Datawind is still to supply 1,00,000 LCADs of higher specifications at the same price. These higher specifications (which include 700 MHz Cortex A8 processor, 3200 mAH Battery and capacitive touch screen) have been necessitated to overcome the initial difficulties observed in the devices," he said.

The minister was also asked what the government was doing to recover the money back. "No payment has yet been made by IIT-Rajasthan to the vendor (Datawind), and hence, the question of getting back the money does not arise," he said. A few weeks earlier, Datawind CEO had told TOI that his firm would start supplying the new tablets this month.