The LATimes has a story that India has now produced a thirty five dollar tablet computer for it’s students, or sort of…

The plan is to distribute thousands of the computers in coming months to students at a government-subsidized rate of $35.

It has taken several years to develop, faced a lot of skepticism and received help from taxpayers given the state’s actual cost of around $50.

But the Aakash offers the promise of computing to millions of people in rural India who seem to be living more in the 19th century than the 21st.

The Philippines is also working on 70 dollar tablets for our students, maybe working with the India to get them.

Why modern tablet computers for poor countries? Two reasons: Cheaper for textbooks and computer literacy.

Right now, I “lust” for a large IPad, but when we last checked, an IPad I in Manila was 17000 pesos (450 dollars US), and a new one from 25 to 36 000 pesos (500 dollars plus). A Samsung tablet phone was 24 000, a Samsung tablet galaxy without phone 15000pesos.

(exchange rate 42 peso per dollar).
An alternative is the cheaper 7000 peso (120 dollar) android computers that they are promoting here for high school kids to read books on (and of course connect with their friends and play games). They also have a 5000 peso alternative that is a bit smaller and a slightly longer battery life.

I would buy a Kindle, but they are not easily available here, and of course, there is the problem in translating my pdf file books to their system. I can buy an MP3 player that can work as a kindle for about 5000 pesos, but they are not available here in town.

But the tablet, maybe with a bluetooth keyboard, is the way to go. Why not just a laptop? Actually the smaller ASUS laptops are quite popular here, and run less than 20 thousand pesos.

The push for computers is practical: it will make our students more computer literate.

Actually, they already are.

It sounds crazy to say that villages who don’t even have electricity will benefit from tablet computers, but all it takes is a cellphone to connect to the internet from your smartphone. Cellphone towers are all over, and some cities are providing zones where for a fee you can connect wifi anywhere. Or an entrepeneur to set up an internet cafe with wifi via the telephone line,or an uplink to a cellphone tower or even via satellite (I used satellite internet in the US years ago).

I live in the provinces, not Manila. Even ten years ago, our computer cafes were busy with students playing games. Nowadays, they are not only full of gameplayers playing internet games,  but kids emailing and texting back and forth. Overseas folks use Skype etc. to talk to their families. And my granddaughter did a youtube type video for school, and helps us to make brochures and papers for our business.

When the floods came last week, our internet/cable TV etc. was out and she lamented she didn’t know what to do. We put her to work cleaning up, and I gave her two paperback books, but it shows how ten year olds think computers as part of normal living.

Another advantage of a cheap tablet is for textbooks.

But being able to access textbooks without lugging a heavy and expensive textbook back and forth to school will be a big help. I mean, they sell “roll on luggage” type book bags for our students to use.

Right now, an Ebook is almost the same price as a printed book (and even more expensive than a used textbook).But for students, the government can put textbooks on line for them to download for free, and voila, lots of money saved.

Still, 5000 pesos is a bit high for farmers who earn the average of 600 pesos a day.

Government subsidies and sharing a tablet would solve that. Alas, the real problem is that someone will find a way to divert funds for the computers, or even divert and sell the computers themselves on the black market, making a lot of illegal money.

The present administration is busy trying to punish corruption,  but that is another story for another day

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