Saturday, November 05, 2011

Building castles with the sky

No, that is not a typo - while others build castles in the sky, we are now building castles with the sky. This is about Aakash - the tablet aptly named after the blue sky - which will go down as a dud.

The problem with offering tablet PC's and laptops to a population already underserviced in terms of education opportunity or power is the utility.

Many years back, a newspaper in Mumbai had a 100 page issue as part of some anniversary celebration or something. Needless to say, vendors thought it was smarter to sell it directly as used paper rather than go through the trouble of having to sell it. Why? Because the cost and effort of carting it around was not worth the trouble of the commission it would offer them.

Ditto with laptops and tablets. The immediate utility of something like that is not that high as much as the immediate utility of the cash that the beneficiaries might get by selling them.

Imagine that you live in a slum. Now with the pathetic electricity supply you have, you have to manage a laptop or a tablet. And as it is in a slum,the risk of something being stolen is quite high - either by a drunkard relative or someone else. If the risk for stealing is low, then surely there are demands for money from everybody concerned - in which case, it is smarter to sell the damn thing for some immediate cash. And then to top it, you perhaps go to a school where the teachers is more absent than present. And while you do so, you have to lug around a laptop or tablet on your back. Overall, if you ask me, a losing proposition. Unless I plan to use the battery to power the monitor to light up the house during a load shedding in the evening hours!

You get the point. My smallish brain tells me that it is a waste of time and taxpayers money. The only people happy with this are the manufacturers and the supply chain who will probably laugh all the way to the bank. And then again, some of those who manage to get a good price on the damn thing may also be happy with it.

On the other hand - giving bicycles to schoolchildren might have a totally different effect...

1 comment:

Niti Bhan said...

Yes. Indeed. (Now all I need to do is tease out the BoP payment and thinking stuff ;p)