The following post has been written by Vishal Tripathi who previously wrote the post Counter Strike 1.6. More than just a game.. Vishal was a Code-Warrior (passed out this year) and usually went for Programming events and had gotten into a habit of not coming empty handed from competitions. This post was originally written for The Viewspaper but a bunch of idiots as they are, they didn’t publish the post (Those are my words, not Vishal’s).
The widening economic divide between the rich and the poor has been pestering the governments of developing countries like India for quite some time. The more they try to bridge the gap, the more it widens as the fruits of growth are shared largely by the rich and the poor are left out. Certainly educating the poor and the deprived is the only way forward and for the same reason the HRD Ministry of India undertook an ambitious project of providing one laptop to every child on the lines of ‘One Laptop Per Child Association’ (OLPC), a U.S. non-profit organization. The ball started rolling when experts at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) came out with a $100 prototype of OLPC OX-1 in 2005. It was a lime green children-friendly computer that promised to revamp the education system around the world. But as its production cost touched almost $200, the model was rejected. And now on 22 July, 2010, India provided the much needed solution by launching the prototype of a $35 tablet exclusively developed by students of various Indian Institute Technology (IITS), India Institute of Science (IISc) and Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) in a collaborative effort. The device turned heads all around the world due to low cost tag and staggering features which the HRD Minister Kapil Sibbal rightly described as “India’s answer to MIT’s $100 laptop”.
Sakshat, meaning ‘embodiment’, is a multi-feature power packed device. It has a sturdy rubberised body with a 7’’ resistive touch screen. Resistive touch screens are generally slow to respond when compared to their smooth capacitative counterparts, but considering the low cost, it’s a price that one should be happy to pay. It uses Google’s Android operating system and runs on Linux which being an ‘Open Source Software’ (OSS) dramatically reduces its price. A decent 2 GB RAM and WiFi capability particularly helps in streaming videos and viewing online lectures flawlessly.
So this way every child can access the best tutorials online irrespective of his/her location as the task of making all institutions WiFi enabled is also being carried out simultaneously at a rapid pace. Sakshat also boasts of a mini SD card slot, mini USB port, video out, SIM card slot and a headphone jack.
It has no internal hard disk and uses an external memory card just like a camera or a mobile phone. A maximum of 32 GB external memory hard disk can also be connected to it. It has all relevant applications that run impeccably in a Linux platform like Open Office, Multimedia Player, SciLab for printing utilities, video-web conferencing facilities, unzip tools and a searchable PDF reader. Exclusive prudence has been observed with respect to battery performance as it is powered by a 2-watt battery to suit areas where power supply is erratic. Inclusion of a solar panel to charge the battery but without mounting the cost is also being worked upon.
Hurdles and Expectations
If the dream that Sakshat promises is to be realised in the true sense, many impediments have to be tackled. Although initially the response to it was mediocre, but as the prototype was tested and reviewed by various media centres around the world, major companies showed interest in its mass production. And finally on 8th September, HCL Technologies, who is no stranger at producing cost efficient computers, bagged the contract to produce 1,00,000 units in the first phase as the product is scheduled to be launched on 10th January, 2011. Critics are still skeptical of whether the product will be able to deliver its 100% performance in different weather conditions or whether the ultimate aim for bringing the cost further down below $20 can be practically achieved. But whatever may be the odds, Sakshat is indeed a miracle that can revolutionize the entire education sector not only in India but around the world and can light the candle of hope in the lives of many of daily battle with their inescapable shadow of misery and misfortune.