In a market where buyers are amazed at the thought of a tablet PC that can come in under $100, Montreal's DataWind company has recently unveiled a new tablet that puts quite a bit of power in users' hands, and does so for a surprisingly tiny amount of money. The Aakash 2 tablet--that deeply functional and highly cost-effective tablet in question--looks to change the way the Indian education system, and possibly even beyond, works.
The Aakash 2 is said to be on par with the original iPad in terms of power, though it runs on Android or Linux operating systems, and comes in at the shockingly low price of $40 each. Since it can match the original iPad for power, it has the potential to build its own programs, making it not only a great way to access data, but also provide educational opportunities, which is a large portion of why DataWind created that Aakash 2 in the first place.
To that end, DataWind is looking to get its new tablets into use in the Indian education system, which has its share of problems. 80 million students don't complete basic elementary education, and 20 percent of teenagers and young adults are illiterate. Only 17 percent of students move on to college. Perhaps most telling of all, 95 percent of the population doesn't own anything that can be considered a computing device. That's a lot of room for improvement on almost every front--though some would question the long-term value of college in there--and that's what DataWind's moving to do.
DataWind has joined up with the Indian government to not only put together a massive number of Aakash 2 tablets, but also get them to students. While the tablet itself costs $40 to make, thanks to subsidies from the Indian Ministry of Education, the tablets will be available for just $20 to the students. What's interesting about this move is that, while it's a substantial up-front expense, it may well prove to be a long-term savings as the devices are used to present textbooks, saving on the cost of having them printed up and handed out, which is commonly handled at the local government level. In turn, DataWind hopes local governments will take those savings and buy more Aakash 2 tablets, getting them in even wider circulation than they already are.
By the end of March, it's expected that fully 100,000 Aakash 2 tablets will be in schools, with more to follow. Still under development, meanwhile, are a $4 keyboard and a $1 solar charger, and thanks to inbuilt SIM card capability, the device can serve as a mobile phone. It has also been seen remotely controlling robots and even performing cardiac diagnostics.
There is, certainly, plenty of room for the tablet in schools. Many schools throughout the United States and beyond have seen the value of such systems, and certainly, computers in general have been in play for a long time. Using tablets, or even just e-readers, to replace textbooks is an equally impressive idea as the textbooks can always be kept current and most useful to students. Not to mention, of course, that students no longer need to cart several pounds of paper around with them in the course of a school day.
Indian classrooms may be on to something here, something that schools all over may want to follow up with. Will the Aakash 2 become the world's new gold standard for classroom tablet? Only time will tell just how far it all goes.
Edited by Brooke Neuman