A Story About the Aakash and India’s Tech Industry

All last year, we heard about the Aakash tablet and how India had created history by producing the world’s cheapest tablet computer. Launched at the low price of $35 USD, it promised to transform India’s educational institutions by bringing computers to all. Nearly a year later, little seems to have changed, however. In a recent article, April Rabkin of Fast Company provided an insightful journey into the reasons behind the tablet’s failure. She writes:

The problems were immediately evident. According to one source close to the university, a third of the devices didn’t start at all. Most of those that did either failed the basic drop test, overheated quickly, or saw their screens freeze until the battery ran out. A peek inside the box revealed circuitry and imported components held together by electrical tape. “It wasn’t up to the mark. It was slow and would get stuck at times,” says Ashutosh Mittal, one of the students on the testing team. “We tested many devices and most were faulty.” He doesn’t have an Aakash to show me.

The failure of the Aakash makes evident several truths about India’s production and technical capabilities, as Rabkin writes,

The Aakash has become an object lesson in the Indian government’s ability to create great expectations and its inability to deliver on them. The bold overpromise and subsequent underdelivery says a lot about not only India’s managerial and technical shortcomings but also the desire of its politicians and media to promote a story of India as a rising superpower. The eagerness to peddle this line seems not to have faded. The government still insists that the next-generation Aakash will debut this fall.

Rabkin’s story of her journey into the truth about the Aakash shows that India is, indeed, a long way from achieving any degree of excellence in tech innovation. Moreover, it clearly illustrates the reasons why frugal and jugaad approaches to innovation are often unsuccessful and inadequate.

Read the complete article here.

About Ayesha Vemuri

Ayesha Vemuri is responsible for thought leadership and outreach efforts at CKS. She has undergraduate degree in Visual Art from Reed College in Portland, Oregon, where she also studied such varied subjects as biology, literature and the humanities. At CKS, she is responsible for curating the Design Public blog, managing our various social media platforms, organizing Pecha Kucha Nights and contributing to the intellectual content of the Design Public Conclave and other CKS initiatives. Find her on twitter at @ayeshavemuri.
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