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India's 220 million schoolchildren in line for a £13 computer tablet

Thirteen pounds doesn’t buy much these days, but a UK company is selling a computer tablet more powerful than the first iPad for that value to India’s 220 million schoolchildren.

Datawind, a London-based technology company with offices in Canada and India, has produced an ultra-low cost tablet, which it is selling for just $20 – around £13 – with the intention of targeting the developing world’s education sector, starting with the sub-continent. 

The device, called the Aakash2, runs on the Android operating system, which is owned by Google, and its creators claim it is more powerful than the first generation iPad, created by Apple. It is expected that a million devices will be have been sold by September.

The tablet usually costs $40 but the Indian Ministry of Education is subsidising half the cost as it hopes the new computer will potentially save it millions in supplies such as textbooks. 

It comes as governments around the world are increasingly looking to provide their school students with personal tablets. The US aims to provide each of its students with one-to-one access by 2016, while Singapore, Turkey and Jamaica have similar targets. 

And just last month, the Kenyan government announced it would be providing 1.35 million laptops – one for each of its students starting primary school – at an estimated cost of £399 million. 

Suneet Singh Tuli, Datawind’s CEO, said he produced the device by squeezing supply chain margins, but most importantly developing their own touchscreen technology. 

“We focused on disruptive innovation by deploying ‘good enough’ features and technology, instead of trying to create an iPad killer,” Mr Tuli said. “For people whose monthly salary is $200 per month, getting good-enough functionality is more important than all the bells & whistles that put products out of their reach.” 

India has made it a national priority to provide a subsidised computer tablet to each of its 220 million students, and Datawind now has pilots in Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Turkey, Thailand, Uruguay and even in parts of the US. 

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