First, India gave us the world’s cheapest car. Now comes the world’s most affordable laptop.
Officials in India are scheduled today to unveil a prototype for a laptop which the government hopes will be available for just 500 rupees (£7.25). In a stroke, it is hoped that getting online will become affordable to hundreds of thousands of people previously without access to the internet.
Quite how the so-called Sakshat laptop can be produced for so little money has yet to be explained. Though the launch of the project was announced two years ago, remarkably few details have been revealed ahead of today’s planned unveiling.
However, speaking last week with journalists, the government’s Higher Education Secretary, R P Agrawal, said he was positive that the computer would be affordable and that a retail model would hit the shelves within six months. At the moment, he said, the team behind the laptop estimated its cost at a little more than 500 rupees, but he said he was confident that, once production started, the sheer volume of demand would bring the cost down.
“If the parents want to gift something to their kids, they can easily purchase this item,” he said. “But a lot of testing has to be done to ensure that the technology works properly. Once the testing is over, the computers will be made available on a commercial basis.Thetarget is to make it available in six months’ time.”
At such a low cost, the Indian computer, which requires just two watts of power and comes with wi-fi connectivity and a 2Gb Ram capacity, would sharply undercut other budget laptops such as the so-called $100 laptop or Children’s Machine that was produced by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US as part of the “One Laptop Per Child” scheme. That project was announced in 2005 and since then about 1 million laptops have been ordered by governments around the world, particularly in South America.
Mr Agrawal said the Sakshat laptop –made by the Vellore Institute of Technology, the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras and the Semiconductor Complex – was part of a wider plan to boost online learning at up to 20,000 colleges and universities across India.
He said that the government would produce educational materials free of charge which students will then be able to access through the laptops. “The ultimate target is to have a virtual technological university,” he added.
The Indian government said: “The proposed mission broadly has the objective of ensuring connectivity of the learners to the ‘World of Knowledge’ in cyberspace and to make them ‘Netizens’ in order to enhance their self-learning skills and develop their capabilities for on-line problemsolving.”
Last year India saw the launch of what at the time was the world’s cheapest car. The Tata Nano was promoted as the One Lakh (100,000 rupee) car and was launched by the company’s boss Ratan Tata as a step up from a motorcycle. The stripped-down car, to be produced without air conditioning and just a 623cc engine, is due to be released later this year. (Independent)