500 Rupee (10$) Indian Laptop Coverage
First exposure had been a couple of years back as per this news piece from Information Week. Some hunting on infoDev news archives for low ICT devices and calls to HRD, VIT, IISc and IITM are in order which lead to a 2006 OLPC news item ridiculing the sheer audacity of the effort while the comments have some URLs which are interesting.
Moving along, here is the PCWorld article of 29 July 2008 at 6:30pm which reported on India developing 10$ laptop. Here is the PC World retraction at 11:00pm the same day saying that the minister of state for higher education, D. Purandeswari, apparently missed a zero – bringing the laptop to a sane 100$. For emphasis, here is the press information bureau transcript that corrects the blunder.
Coming to the present, for starters, here is the press release from National Knowledge Commission on the launch of the National Mission on Education through ICT. Ironically, there is no website yet and the Sakshat ‘One Stop Learning Stop’ portal is down. Interestingly, it makes NO mention of the laptop which makes one question where did all this come from?
Anyhoo… the press release mentions several other missions/schemes such as the National Translation Mission, Vocational Education Mission, National Knowledge Network, Scheme of ICT @ Schools etc. and stresses that synergies will be sought and duplication averted.
On Feb 1st, the Better India RSS feed was the re-connector. The article is here, prompting me to check the calendar that it was indeed February and not April. The news source is Times of India.
Atanu Dey attacked the news by blaming the press for not applying simple common-sense. Apparently, media buys anything nowadays. His article is here and his source is here.
Amulya Gopalakrishan of the Indian Express burns the midnight oil and reports here. She starts out by being cynical but takes a U-turn of sorts in the end. It has some OLPC background too.
The news has spread appreciably. Some techie posts are up here and here. The news has even reached far flung places like Italy, Chile and Hungary. Whats more? it has been translated. Human, this is catching on! One wonders how much media will alight in Tirupathi on 3 Feb 2009.
All said and done, it could well be that the ‘laptop’ is really an access device ala the ones offered by Novatium/Nivio/Nimbus albeit with a display. There are some hints in the Engadget feed and PCWorld article for the same. Nimbus officially will give the device puppy to anyone for 50$. Novatium NetPC with BSNL offer is in the same ball-park figure but it is more like a mobile business model. Nivio have a companion device but also have something in stealth.
Or maybe, as Post Chronicle guesses, the thing that will be unvieled on Feb 3 is only a prototype and will actually be available in the market in 2010 by which time OLPC XoXo will be in the 75$ range. With company overheads paid for in rupees (if at all), unlike dollars for the swanky OLPC outfit with thousands of dollars per month devoted to Negroponte globe-trotting, it might be that the Indian claim is not outlandish after all. But I digress. I have seen Chinese mobile phones with 3-inch touchscreens in Delhi bazaars peddling for 15$ but they could be stolen maal. The 20$ price-tag for a mobile-platform based device could not be impossible (with some heavy subsidies and election promiseering, of course). However, 2GB RAM, WiFi and other specs seem circumspect and can be red herrings.
I can say this with some speck of authority because, at MCe2, we are planning on what we call an ‘education access terminal’ which we hope to deliver at a 75$ price-point. Note: It is price, not cost.