Aakash was panned by most critics, the tablet could not do most tasks without a hassle, and lacked the essential accessories to make an impact in the education sector—applications, ability to play a variety of formats, and content. Aakash became to the tablet market, what Nano is to the car market—a product for the underdog, and not for one who aspires. Now the HRD ministry plans to repeat the same trick with the Aakash-2 tablet. This one—at R1,650—comes with an even lower price, and has the standard set of hardware upgrades expected of a successor. The price may seem unbelievable but given the subsidy and volumes—Aakash-2’s tender is for 55 lakh units, whereas Datawind sells it to the government for more than R2,000—the price makes sense. Yet, in the hullabaloo surrounding the world’s cheapest tablet, the task of creating an technological ecosystem for education is lost.
To put it in simple terms, if a tablet is to create a “network of e-learning” amongst schools and universities, simply making the tablets won’t do. There needs to be power at enough times of the day (to charge the tablet), the teachers should know how to use it, and most importantly, there should be content that actually assists in learning and understanding. After all, the less repeated truth is that tablets can distract and assist in equal amounts. One can spend the whole day playing games, and listening to music. In Peru, for instance, one-laptop-per-child policy showed little improvement in results. Therefore, to truly create an ecosystem, where technology can assist in learning, a holistic approach needs to adopted. First, the institution of infrastructure—electricity at all times (or at least during classes); then training programmes to help teachers understand the uses of tablets; and third, interactive content (Aakash-2’s free pdf books is great starter) that helps enhance the learning process. Without these complementary efforts, the “world’s cheapest tablet” may just end up being a marketing gimmick for the HRD ministry.