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India’s Aakash project hits the buffers, but government insists $35 tablet is doing fine

by Doug Drinkwater

March 25 2013

The Indian government unveiled the Aakash 2 last November
The Indian government unveiled the Aakash 2 last November

18 months on from India’s promise to equip millions of students with the low-cost $35 Aakash tablet, and the project looks to be in complete disarray.

The Aakash project has been in the works since October of 2011 and initially contracted British tablet vendor Datawind to provide 100,000 of the Android tablets, for use in higher education.

Serious delays and a row over money have since put paid to that figure, while the Indian government later admitted to being disappointed with the quality of the original Aakash tablet. The second version subsequently arrived in November with a better processor, more RAM and an improved LCD display.

Now though, it appears as though India's patience with the project is wearing thin, leaving the possibility that the project could be called to a close.

The Human Resource Development Ministry recently wrote to the executing body IIT Bombay to ensure that Datawind meets the terms, conditions and supply order of the Aakash tablet contract by March 31.

Both the government and Datawind are still squabbling over order numbers and money. According to the First Post, the Indian government says that just 17,100 devices have been delivered so far, while DataWind says that 29,400 models are now in transit, with another 23,500 to be shipped out as soon as the company receives the money for the first order.

The Indian government is however - publicly at least - stressing that it intends to keep working with Datawind on the tablet project.

“The Aakash tablet, which is a dream project of the government, has been successful,” said human resource development minister MM Pallam Raju, when speaking to The Hindu.

“The delay in delivering the product was due to the huge number of people who pre-ordered it. We will try to solve the issues of performance of the tablet and its distribution. Already, the second and third improved versions of Aakash have been released."

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