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DataWind, a small London based company owned by Indian born entrepreneurs Suneet Singh Tuli and his brother Raja Singh Tuli bagged the contract from the Indian government to manufacture low cost tablet, Aakash for the poor school children in India. The tablet was to be manufactured in India using Google’s free Android software. The Indian government was expected to buy these tablets in millions. The DataWind was expected to deliver 100,000 tablets by December 31, 2012. However, it has not been able to deliver as per the promise. The DataWind had plans to launch a low cost version for commercial purposes, also. So far they have delivered approximately 10,000 tablets that are manufactured in China. The company is deeply in red as per the financial statements filed with British regulators.
Some interviews were conducted to find out the reasons behind the failure in delivering the product. DataWind executives, Indian government officials and Chinese manufacturers were approached to know their opinion. As per these interviews, the DataWind is a small family company to carry out such a complex and challenging job within budget and time limit. Even the China’s expert technology manufacturers would find such project challenging. Even Indian information technology giants such as HCL or Wipro did not submit their bids, as the specifications provided by the Indian government were quite challenging. The DataWind submitted the lowest bid at $50 with the promise that the tablets will be manufactured India. However, at present Indian manufacturing sector is not equipped with the required skills to build such complex hardware.
Indian government’s decision to expose school children from all strata to latest educational technology is praise worthy. However, one wonders how effective the technology is in improving educational performance of the students. According to Leigh Linden, an assistant professor at the University of Texas, Austin, hiring more teachers can be a more effective strategy to improve the standards of education among poor and under privileged children. In some cases latest technology such as computers or tablets may lower the performance of the students.
Here is the full story: An Idea Promised the Sky
Another link is here: Conversation with DataWind’s Suneet Singh Tuli