How a $20 tablet from India could educate billions

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This is huge. 

Technology already changed education in the western world, it’s also booming in the developing world, trying to get everyone connected.

Initiatives such as One Laptop Per Child kicked off at the MIT in 2005 and delivered 2.4+ million XO computers for $100 a piece.

Since 2009, they shifted their focus towards tablet computers.

XO3, boasting a solar panel

Obviously, both governments and tech giants have vested interests in getting the next billion of internet users. To do that, you need a proper device and an internet connexion. So, the Indian governments wants to buy “5.86 million tablets to give to school, college-going kids”, bearing in mind 95% of the population do not currently own a computing device. Then, Mr. Suneet Tuli (picture below) created a $40 tablet named Aakash ($20 is subsidised by the indian government) and won a tender in 2010 for an initial 100,000 units.

The New York Times reports that it was a disaster (underpowered/poor touchscreen). Nonetheless, Mr Tuli is back at it and created Aakash 2 priced at $35, getting positive reviews from VentureBeat and Techcrunch, Forbes said the Aakash 2 is “Life changing”.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, left, receives an Aakash 2 (7-inch, Wi-Fi, Android) from Suneet Tuli, right, CEO of Datawind, and India’s UN Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri. (Nov. 28, 2012) AP/Richard Drew

How do they go online? The Indian government delpoyed free broadband to 600 universities and 1,200 colleges, the real deal is in unlimited mobile data plans starting $2/month, even without 3G it’s still bearable.

Implications:

> Hardware is dead. Acer works on a $99 tablet, it’s too late. China will drive prices down.

> Execution is king.

Will Mr Tuli be able to deliver Aakash 2 at scale, and fast?

> Politics matter. Will technology and governmental lobby embrace that trend?

> Niche is the norm. Apple’s iPad is niche. Amazon’s Kindle is niche.

> Wow. Connect another billion minds on internet and watch what happens. How exciting?

Read more about Aakash on QZ.

-Rodolphe (initially published on dutel.fr)

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