The $35 Aakash tablet could soon be on its way to schoolchildren in Philadelphia if talks with an American firm that has shown interest in the project work out fine, according to highly placed sources.
Philadelphia-based Wilco Electronics, which is in negotiations with the Union Human Resource Development Ministry that is working on the touchscreen tablet along with its Canadian manufacturer Datawind, is looking to procure the Aakash tablet for use by schoolchildren and disadvantaged sections there.
Brigitte Daniel, executive vice president of Wilco, came to New Delhi late last year to personally see and understand how the tablet works and is learnt to be quite interested in the project.
“I did visit the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) last year to explore the options of partnership and distribution of the Aakash tablet in the US. My company, Wilco Electronic Systems, is currently in stages of exploring a relationship with Govt of India and/or Datawind (the company responsible for distributing the tablet) and may look to pilot use of the tablets in Philadelphia,” Daniel said in an email to The Indian Express.
“We will be meeting in the US with Datawind early April. We hope to nail down details about this then and see what we can do to get a pilot going in Philadelphia,” Daniel confirmed.
Explaining that she was keen on “testing the device within schools and under-served communities”, Daniel said the number of tablets Wilco will procure would depend on the manufacturing rate of the tablet by the HRD Ministry. Wilco is said to be the primary cable and internet provider for Philadelphia Housing Authority projects and is focused on serving low-income Philadelphians.
Daniel is also member of the Diversity Committee of the US Federal Communications Commission and works to bridge the digital divide by providing state-of-the-art affordable telecommunication and broadband services to underserved populations.
She is of the view that Philadelphia apart, Aakash will be much in demand across the US as well. “I do believe that the Aakash tablet could potentially make impact within the US National Broadband plan to bridge the digital divide for underserved communities, schools, and low-income communities, here in the US,” she added.
Incidentally, the HRD Ministry will invite bids for 5 million Aakash tablets next month and this will be an upgraded version with a better processor and touchscreen.