India has unveiled plans to produce a laptop computer costing just US$10 in a bid to improve the skills of millions of students.
The laptops will be produced as part of a government-sponsored education scheme launched yesterday in the southern city of Tirupati.
In an attempt to bridge the “digital divide” between rich and poor, the laptop — known as Sakshat, which translates as “before your eyes” — will be the centerpiece of an ambitious e-learning program to link 18,000 colleges and 400 universities across the country.
Details about the computer remained scarce, but Higher Education Secretary R.P. Agrawal said last week that it would be available within six months.
“Once the testing is over, the computers will be made available on commercial basis,” he told the Press Trust of India news agency.
India has a reputation for creating ultra-cheap technologies, a trend begun last year by the Tata Nano, the world’s cheapest car at 100,000 rupees (US$2,000).
The laptop will reportedly have a 2 gigabyte memory and wireless Internet capability, but officials have not publicly demonstrated a prototype — or explained how it can be made at such a low cost.
Rajesh Jain, managing director of Netcore Solutions and a pioneer of low-cost computing in India, said: “You cannot even [make] a computer screen for US$20. And India does not build much computer hardware. So where will the savings come from?”
Some bloggers saw the laptop as nothing more than a “souped up calculator.”
The skeptism was best summed up by Atanu Dey: “If the government could pull off a near-impossible technological miracle, does it not imply that the entire global computer industry is either totally incompetent, or else it is a huge scam which produces stuff at very little cost and sells them at exorbitant prices.”
The government has earmarked more than 46 billion rupees to develop the low-power gadget to work in rural areas with unreliable power supply and poor Internet connectivity.