Indian Jugaad – The Aakash Tab @ Just $35

Posted: November 30, 2011 in Tech Savvy

India, which has a population of nearly 1.2 billion and is home to 40 percent of the world’s poor, has experience paring down high-end technology and making it affordable and accessible. The Aakash Tablet is an example of a “leapfrog technology,” a concept where the latest innovations jump directly into areas where legacy technologies never penetrated. Tens of millions of people throughout India who never had access to a landline phone now walk around with cell phones in their pocket. Many of those likely to use or own the Aakash Tablet will never have used a desktop computer, and it’s possible they never will.

A similarly transformative Indian-created product is the Tata Nano car, a revolution in automobile design built to give mobility to millions of low-to-mid-income Indians. When it came out in 2009, the Tata Nano was heralded as the world’s cheapest car. But, while the Tata Nano is ultimately a destructive force — adding drivers to the congested roads and vehicle exhaust into the air — the Aakash tablet will be used to educate hundreds of millions of children.

Jugaad is an Indian word which means “to make-do.” The Aakash tablet is a Jugaad in a very high tech way. The components inside the Aakash tablet are cheap, and easily sourced. For example, the Aakash tablet has a headphone jack and an audio-in jack, but no external speakers — an obvious cost-savings measure. However, with the addition of cheap headphones, and an equally cheap microphone, the owner can make calls on Skype and has the potential to communicate with people around the world.

The Aakash is running Android 2.2, Froyo, with the UniSurfer browser installed. Made by DataWind, UniSurfer is supposed to make webpage process faster, probably to compensate for the slower processor and connection speeds. However, while browsing the Internet and testing out apps, we couldn’t help but notice that the reaction time seemed very slow. Scrolling, for example, is a swipe-and-wait affair. However, the speed is going to be quite sufficient for someone who has never in his or her life had a Smartphone or computer. It’s all relative after all. Compared with the iPhone 4s, the iPhone 3G is a “slow” Smartphone, only because speedier alternatives are available. Even in a context where the market is full of smart devices, like in the U.S., speed helps us make decisions incrementally faster, but rarely are these issues of genuine consequence.

The Aakash has both GPRS and Wi-Fi capabilities. Its battery power is limited to 180 minutes of use on a full charge, but it comes with an AC adapter. What’s important isn’t that the tablet can run off of the battery for long periods of time, but that it will still be able to work and surf the net when the power goes out.

And next month, the first Aakash tablets will go on sale throughout India, and millions of children will be able to join the tablet revolution that is transforming education, communication and entertainment across the world.

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