With elections on its mind, the government is planning to distribute more than 20 million tablets to senior school students throughout the country in the current financial year. The order is expected to be worth Rs. 8,000 crore.
With Lok Sabha elections scheduled in less than a year, the government wants to complete the project within this financial year. For computer makers hit by the economic downturn, this could spell big business.
Micromax, HCL Infosystems, Karbonn, Lenovo and Teracom could be among the leading players who may vie for the order which would be issued through an open government tender, expected to be floated by a large public sector undertaking.
Officials of the prime minister’s office, the department of telecommunications and the department of information technology and electronics met recently to discuss the proposal, said a government official familiar with the developments.
The details are yet to be worked out and the project is still at initial stages. “We expect price of a tablet to be between Rs. 3,000 and Rs. 4,000,” said the official. On this basis, 20 million tablets would cost up to Rs. 8,000 crore.
Officials are looking at utilising funds available with the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) built from a share of annual revenues given by telecom operators to the government to spread the technology in rural areas.
Currently, USOF has close to Rs. 25,000 crore in its kitty that is lying unutilised. "Even though, USOF is planning some projects, it will have sufficient funds for the project," said the official.
Currently, some states are distributing laptops free to high school students. It was even part of Samajwadi Party’s election manifesto in Uttar Pradesh. However, no state government is distributing tablets.