The Indian government yesterday unveiled a computer device that it has developed to be highly affordable.
The Sakshat "laptop", which was created by a consortium of government, academic and commercial organisations, contains 2GB of memory, is Wi-Fi and Ethernet enabled and has a relatively low power consumption of 2 watts.
The machine does not resemble a conventional laptop, and it is not entirely clear what it does. Details of what software runs on the computer are also unclear, but it is believed to operate on the Linux open source operating system.
The pricing of the device is even more uncertain. When the plan was originally launched, after government talks with the One Laptop Per Child project collapsed, reports quoted the organisers as saying it could cost as little as $10 after six months of mass production. But they have been tight lipped on pricing since.
The overwhelming reaction to the plans has been one of scepticism, certainly with regard to the original indications of cost. Many have questioned how it can be possible to produce a laptop for as little as $10, when other projects have struggled to bring the price down to $100.
Some commentators have pointed to the proximity of yesterday’s product demonstration to the forthcoming Indian elections. There is a sizeable proportion of the Indian electorate that questions whether the benefits of the country’s high-tech economy are being shared equally among the country’s people, many of whom are still desperately poor. The $10 laptop project suggests willingness on the part of the government to make the country’s highly successful IT sector more inclusive.
Last year, India’s Tata Motors unveiled the Nano, a car it says will be available for $2,000 when it goes on sale. No release date has yet been announced, however.