India's cheap-as-chips delayed by cash spat
£20 netbook will take even longer to appear
Will Indians ever be able to buy a netbook for 20 quid? The nation's government still hopes so, despite binning its original offer to manufacturers to come up with one.
The Indian government pitched the ultra-low cost laptop notion last year, and put the project out to tender with a view to having product ready to release by 15 January 2011.
That deadline was passed last week. It transpires that the vendor selected to design and build the computer - intended to bring internet access to millions of poorly paid Indians - had failed to indemnify the Indian government against the cost of the project crashing, local paper the Times of India reports.
The government this week confirmed that a new tender had been issued. It hopes that the project can be quickly revived, and product will appear mid year.
That may prove optimistic. While the government's Ministry of Human Resource and Development, the organisation behind the project, wants to charge Rs 1500 (£31/$33), moles claim the cost of the parts alone come to Rs5700 (£79/$125) - and that's before the machine has been assembled, loaded with software, boxed up and shipped out.
It has been claimed, the ToI said, that that discrepancy is the real reason government and manufacturer fell out. ®
The Indian government should have made access to clean water, power, education, healthcare and contraception the priorities before embarking on this futile project.
How on Earth did they ever think they were going to do this for £20 a piece.
For $10, the price considered reasonable for middle class Indian families to realistically have in disposable income, the computers which are filling the gap are the Chinese made Famicom knock-offs (humble 8-bitters with keyboards). TVs are ubiquitous almost everywhere, so using them as a computer display makes an awful lot of sense for most.
There's even a voluntary organisation devoted to improving the quality of software bundled with these things: http://playpower.org/
I wish them well. I'm sure there are a lot of interesting folks in India that it would be cool to chat with online.
Of course the price is optimistic. It's a challenge to get the cost down as low as possible. There's almost certainly some subsidy built in, to get it to that price point. Local assembly would probably help get the cost down, and provide some folks with the income to buy the thing. But India has a huge population so the opportunities for ridiculous economies of scale are also there.
As for prioritizing on this rather than something else, well, I think this is a good priority to have. A web tablet comes with a variety of useful things, like Google. Using the Google you can find information about all sorts of things, like how people manage conception in the rest of the world, various forms of well designs, and medical information of all sorts - some of it even true. And it comes with income opportunities too.
They could always divert some of the £650m they're spending on over grown fireworks. Third world country, with big problems with child labour, poor santitation etc;, and yet the governments priorities are to put a man into space and give out free laptops. I would have thought that the poor living in run-down shacks would appreciate a reasonable standard of living rather than being able to watch a rocket take off on a 10" screen
Thad - you don't understand.
The first step to becoming a developed western economy is for your political leaders to announce grand national IT projects that will deliver huge service improvements to the public at low cost.
The second step is for the whole project to collapse under huge overspends, under-delivery and bribe scandals.