Popularly known as the world’s cheapest tablet, Aakash tablet project has been provided about Rs 765 crore in Union Budget 2012-2013, which is expected to start the second phase of the Aakash project to start in April 2012, though the first phase is still stuck in a gridlock.
The assignment for Aakash has been made through ICT of Ministry of Human Resource and Development, under the National Mission for Education. The low-cost tablet had been launched by the mission, last year.
As per the official sources, the funds allocated for the project are sufficient for the second phase. Aakash-2 is expected to cost about Rs 569 crore to the government, for about 50 lakh Aakash tablets.
A senior government official associated with the project said, “Maximum part of the funds is expected to be used for the Aakash project. And some of the money will be used for the development of e-content.”
The government aims to acquire about 50 lakh Aakash tablets at Rs 2,276 each, in a phased manner. 50 per cent of the cost (about Rs 1,138 per tablet) will get subsidised by the central government of India. The remaining will be taken care by state governments, who wish to issue the tablets in state institutions and colleges.
The billion dollar 5-year fund allotted to NME-ICT mission expires by 31st March, 2012, which resulted in a fresh allotment by Pranab Mukherjee, Finance Minister in the Budget 2012-13. The new fund allotment comes even though IIT Rajasthan failed to use about Rs 25 crore allotted for Aakash project’s phase 1, because of its disagreement with the vendor.
According to one of the government official who is leading the Aakash project, only around 500 Aakash-1 tablets have been acquired so far. On the other hand, according to officials of Datawind, they have delivered around 10k tablets to IIT Rajasthan, and for the same they are yet to receive cash.
Disagreement over tablet specifications has added to the gridlock. President of One Laptop Per Child Foundation (another competing product in the industry), Satish Jha said, “Allotting more funds to a project that is not steady is not a reputable practice in government.”
In the meantime, the government has wiped its hands off the gridlock, stating it as a trade dispute between the two parties. However, the HRD minister, Kapil Sibal said earlier this month in Lok Sabha, that Datawind-the manufacturer of the tablet will deliver about 1 lakh enhanced tablets.
Kapil Sibal also plans to release a tender for Aakash-2 in April 2012, which is likely to be released with capacitive touchscreen and a better processor, but at the same cost.
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