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Apr 04, 2013 at 06:40pm IST

Govt must accept the blame for Aakash tablet: Ivor Soans

The much-touted Aakash tablet project has been plagued by massive production delays, technical and delivery hitches. There have been complaints about its low memory, frequent system freezes and low-quality display and sound. So is this another of those showcase government projects gone wrong? joined IBNLive readers for an interaction on the issue. Biztech2's managing editor Ivor Soans joined IBNLive readers for an interaction on the issue.

Q. Guys, in 2k, you can't expect and compare Aakash with Ipad or galaxy! Asked by: pc a.k.a. @jpchat9

Govt must accept the blame for Aakash tablet: Ivor Soans

Has the Aakash tablet project become another white elephant?

A. Completely agree. I doubt any students or academic institutions think it compares with the iPad or Galaxy Tab devices. Perhaps some government babus and ministers did.

Q. Why the government should depend on one company? Asked by: Gopal

A. Sometimes one company can provide economies of scale. But clearly, for the Aakash project it may be necessary to look at other companies too.

Q. Is a legal the right choice to handle the HRD and the educational system. Aakash failure poses a big question on his remaining 5 per cent credibility. With 95 percent credibility already down the drain, can the Aakash see another day? Asked by: Vishal

A. Aakash may be a failure on some levels, but thanks to IIT Bombay's involvement, a lot of good has been created on the ecosystem level too. Take a look at: http://tech2.in.com/features/tablets/iit-techfest-2013-apps-demoed-for-aakash-2/670512. So, let's now throw out the baby with the bathwater. While the HRD ministry has bungled, there has been a lot of work put in by great people like Prof Phatak of IIT Bombay and it would be best to take this forward while dealing with the production issues.

Q. With so much of mass volumes the Akash tablet could have been given with much good spec and better quality as the volumes shed the price a lot. If this has not happened then again a can we expect a 2G history again?? Asked by: KG Shankar

A. 2G was a scam, I don't think Aakash is in the same category. I think rather it has been bungling by the HRD ministry--setting unrealistic targets without really understanding what it takes it make a tablet.

Q. Touted as an IIT find does this failure embarrass the famed institution ? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. I don't think the IITs are to blame. While the role of IIT Rajasthan in the Aakash 1 may cause some concern, I feel IIT Bombay has helped a lot in changing things. A lot of good has been created on the ecosystem level too. Take a look at: http://tech2.in.com/features/tablets/iit-techfest-2013-apps-demoed-for-aakash-2/670512. So, let's now throw out the baby with the bathwater. While the HRD ministry has bungled, there has been a lot of work put in by great people like Prof Phatak of IIT Bombay and it would be best to take this forward while dealing with the production issues.

Q. Went wrong due to design defect or wrong assumptions of cost? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. What went wrong was that the Ministry of HRD set unrealistic targets and made loud announcements without having any real idea of what it takes to make a tablet and create an ecosystem that ensures such a tablet can be used for quality delivery of education.

Q. Is there any alternatives being worked out for assisting the Target group to catch on? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. Let's first get Aakash 2 right and use the hard work put in for Aakash before getting into an all-new effort to look at alternatives.

Q. How does the Government get blamed for this and is it fair? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. Because the government went ahead and made tall promises. If a minister 'releases' a tablet that they say is as good as commercially available tablets at prices that seem unbelievable, they can't wash their hands off now and must accept the blame. Leave education to the experts like Prof D B Phatak of IIT Bombay, leave technology to the technology companies--support them rather than set unrealistic targets because it looks great politically.

Q. Proves the old adage....govt has no business to be in business..total failure of Sibal and typical Indian govt thinking that IAS guys can get anything done. Asked by: kp vidyashankar

A. Bingo! The government should be supporting the experts rather than setting unrealistic targets and price points.

Q. Before introducing the tablet competence must have checked by a competent authority? Asked by: prathap

A. Competence of the manufacturer? Certainly. But to be fair to Datawind, they have explained that with Aakash 1 they just delivered as per the specs set by the government, which itself were ridiculously poor. As for manufacturing, Datawind should face the music for production delays and perhaps there is reason to bring in more manufacturers.

Q. Do you think it is a case of mismanagement of a project or was it destined for failure right from the word go? Asked by: Biplab Bose

A. I think it was a mix of both. Firstly, the way the HRD ministry went about the process ensured it would fail from the word go. Then, there was mismanagement, even on the production side. Now, when things seem to be finally falling in place, there seem be to suggestions about cancelling the project, which is perhaps the worst part--when things are finally getting back on track and institutions like IIT Bombay have put in lots of work and there are results to show at the app level and the tablet itself is much improved, you should try and iron out the remaining kinks rather than threaten to cancel.

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