All discussions about Budget 2012, in the startup community, have been centered on the amendment in Income Tax Act that is now being widely referred to as ‘Startup Tax’.Another significant development that took place during Budget 2012 was the allocation of Rs. 765 crore towards the second phase of the Aakash project. This allocation was made under the National Mission for Education through ICT of Ministry of Human Resource and Development. The money will be utilized for the production of 50 lakh tablets and a part of it will be dedicated to develop e-content. The first phase was mired in a number of controversies.
This move by the government will be music to the ears of education startups in the country. If the Aakash tablet manages to check all the boxes it was supposed to, it can create a revolution in India’s education system. The industry has been waiting eagerly to check the performance of Aakash. “I am curiously waiting to see how Aakash performs once students and teachers start using it on a daily basis. A device like Aakash will democratize the learning environment in India. Students in rural areas, who do not get a chance to interact with good teachers, will be able to access world-class e-learning content,” said Unni Koroth, Co-founder, Foradian Technologies.
“I want more activity in the open source e-learning content space. Also, teachers should be actively involved in developing e-content,” added Unni.
For the Aakash tablet to be a success, besides the quality and robustness of the device itself, there needs to be adequate e-learning content. “This is a great move on part of the government. We would love to work towards developing content for the Aakash tablet,” said Jagdish Repaswal, Founder & CEO, MangoReader.
Rupesh Shah, Co-founder & CEO, InOpen Technologies said, “The Aakash tablet is mainly going to be used in rural areas, or less privileged classrooms and setups yet the device is neither rugged enough nor does it have adequate battery backup. I find OLPC's XO laptop to be far more appropriate. On the content front, the government needs to involve major publishers and startups, in the process, to ensure that the quality e-content is available to the students.”
Amidst all this euphoria the 'pricing vs quality' debate throws caution to the wind. Sharing his views on this, Rupesh said, “Price is a crucial factor for Aakash, but it is better that a product costs Rs. x more than what it was supposed to and meets all the requirements, rather than sticking to the same point and creating a below par product. The purpose gets defeated if the tablet becomes a junk in 6 months considering the pervasiveness of the technology”
What do you guys think? Is the government justified in allocating such a huge sum for the development of Aakash? The Aakash tablet has been criticized by all and sundry. Will this financial impetus lead to the development of a tablet we will all be proud of?
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