Technology - Basic $20 tablets are rolled out to Indian students

'Good enough' gadgets will meet country's needs, developer says

While schools across the developed world spend hundreds of pounds on the latest tablet computers for their students, schoolchildren in India are getting their hands on pieces of kit costing just $20 (#163;13) each.

A technology company that has offices in England, Canada and India has produced the ultra-low-cost tablet, with the intention of targeting the developing world's education sector, starting with the Indian subcontinent.

The tablets usually cost $40 each but the Indian government is subsidising half the cost - it hopes that the new computers will save it millions by removing the need for supplies such as textbooks.

Suneet Singh Tuli, chief executive of Datawind, said the company was able to manufacture the device so cheaply partly by squeezing supply chain margins, but most importantly by developing its own touch-screen 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, getting good-enough functionality is more important than all the bells and whistles that put products out of their reach."

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

Just last week, TES reported that the decisions by other governments to provide one-to-one access to tablets could have a knock-on effect in UK schools ("Governments seek tablets for all as takeover continues", 2 August).

Early research into the area in the UK has found that tablets can promote independent learning and boost motivation among students, but there are significant barriers to the effective use of tablets, such as poor wi-fi connectivity in schools.

Similar concerns have been raised in Kenya, where the government intends to give individual laptops to its 1.3 million students starting primary school, despite 90 per cent of schools not having electricity.

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