A DataWind representative displays the supercheap Aakash Tablet computers during its launch in New Delhi.
With Aakash failing to take off, the HRD ministry has decided to keep premier educational institution -- Indian Institute of Technology -- out of procurement and distribution of the low cost tablets.
The ministry has decided that the public sector enterprises -- Indian Telephone Industries (ITI) and Bharat Electrical Limited (BEL) and Centre for Development of Advaned Computing (CDAC) -- will do the job of producing and distributing a million tablets to college students across India.
The HRD ministry plans to give 220 million Aakash tablets to college students in the next five years to bridge the e-literacy gap. The ambition is complete internet penetration among college students from present less than 50%.
The HRD ministry experience with Indian Institute of Technology, Jodhpur, in managing the first version of Aakash launched in October 2011 had not been good. The IIT had not been able to distribute even a single table to college students, other than 650 given for testing to IIT students.
What has irked the ministry is that the IIT rejected most of the tablets given by Montreal based Datawind on the grounds of poor quality. The IIT, Jodhpur, officials told HT that the tablets provided by the company failed to test to meet the rigid Indian conditions.
"The tablet should run anywhere from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and in high rain zones of north-east," an IIT official, requesting anonymity said, adding that most of the tablets failed the test.
HT was first to report that the ministry will not procure any tablet from Datawind, which had been able to supply only 10,000 out to of the one lakh order, in future.
The company, however, said it has not been informed about any such decision and denied the claims on quality saying the tablet meet all the conditions required to run in normal conditions.
Fed up with the wrangling between Datawind and IIT Jodhpur, the job of finalizing the specifications of second version of Aakash has been given to IIT Kanpur, IIT Madras IIT Delhi and IIT Bombay.
"They have provided preliminary specifications which sound good," an official said, adding that they were lower than what IIT Jodhpur had prescribed.
IIT Jodhpur had said that Aakash 2 should be able to run in temperature ranging from – 20 degree Celsius and 50 degree Celsius and should work in heavy rain.
It will lead to higher cost for Aakash 2, as HT had reported earlier. The ministry has now fixed a range of US $35 to US $50 for the new tablet with the final procurement price to be around US $70.