Aakash Tablet: Good Riddance of Bad Rubbish
Just as Everybody Loves a Good Drought (acclaimed book by noted journalist P Sainath), everybody loves, or at least loved until now, a low-cost computing story. That perhaps explains why the $35 Aakash tablet story was covered by the press, both local and international, the way it was.
Only one other device, Indiaâ€™s first truly low-cost computer named Simputer, created bigger media frenzy. While it deserved all the attention then, the founders still canâ€™t fathom why or how it caught the fancy of the press, so much so that international press kept coming in droves for some years. One of the founders tells me that he intends to write a paper on this. I am sure thatâ€™ll make for a good story too!
As Mint reports today, the HRD ministry, whose ridiculouslyÂ naiveÂ idea it was, is close to shutting down this project. Yes, merely a project is what it was, pursued by some for their grubby little self-interests. That the ministry under Pallam Raju has decided to consign it to the bin, a place where it always belonged, it will bring a closure to this murky story. At Forbes India, we gave it a decent burial nearly a year ago. The story, What Went Wrong with Aakash Tablet, details how the idea was â€œstillbornâ€ and no amount of clinical intervention could revive it.
One of the members of the committee that has reviewed Aakash for MHRD tells me that the committeeâ€™s verdict is: â€œIt was a sham from the beginning and it continues to remain a sham even today despite a few IITs adding their heft to itâ€. The report is not yet public but itâ€™s the end of the deviceâ€™s ignominious journey. â€œItâ€™s not a scam,â€ says this committee member. Fair enough, nowhere in my earlier writings have I said so.
But before we close the chapter, hopefully for ever, letâ€™s give one small credit to the architects. It at least got the market buzzing. Some new and some established hardware companies started looking at low-cost tablets for education for the first time. Even customers in the US took this device very seriously. â€œThey thought we could supply at $35, we had to convince them it wasnâ€™t possible. In fact, we had to undo what media and Aakash had done,â€ says an entrepreneur in Bangalore.
While weâ€™ll wait for the committee report to become public, I donâ€™t think itâ€™ll say anything more than whatÂ we’veÂ already said on this site over the last several months.