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The rise of cheap tablets could be a solution for educating Zimbabwe

10 Dec 2012

By Christopher Mims, Source: QZ.com

In India, Suneet Tuli hopes his startup Datawind will educate every schoolchild through the world’s cheapest functional tablet computer.

Tuli’s company is selling the seven-inch Aakash 2 tablet computer  to the Indian government for distribution to 100,000 university students and professors. (If things go well, the government plans to order as many as 5.86 million.)

Similar tablets in China, the world champion in low-cost components and manufacturing, go for $45 and up, wholesale.

Every year, the Indian government spends $13 per student just to ship them textbooks. In primary schools, all texts are based on a standardized, public domain curriculum that is easily transformed into free ebooks. The government is considering paying the full cost of the tablet when handing them out to primary-school-age children. In that case, the $40 the government pays Datawind for each tablet could be recouped over the projected three-year life of one of these tablets, says Tuli.

But the Aakash 2 isn’t just about replacing textbooks: It’s about bringing the full-fledged Internet to users who have never touched it before.

In a recent experiment in Ethiopia, Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the original “One Laptop Per Child” project, gave Android-powered tablets to children in an isolated village. Despite having never had any previous contact with high technology, within months children had used the tablets to teach themselves the English alphabet.

Now we in Zimbabwe wonder whether this is the way to go for our literacy boosting efforts?