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Thai kids find free tablets hard to swallow as govt scheme hits trouble

Report claims 30 PER CENT of devices have broken

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Thailand’s ambitious One Tablet Per Child project appears to have gone slightly off the rails after reports emerged that 30 per cent of devices have broken down barely a year after the initiative was begun.

The government-backed project aims to put a tablet device into the hands of all school children in a bid to reduce social inequality, improve learning and overcome teacher shortages.

However, like a similar scheme in India, it seems to have hit problems early on due to the poor quality of the devices procured by the government.

An inside source at the Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) told Bangkok Post that 30 per cent of the 860,000 tablets distributed to Prathom 1 (elementary grade 1) students last year had broken.

It remains to be seen whether the manufacturer, Shenzhen Scope Scientific Development, has broken its contract or if the blame should be shared with local firm Advice Distribution, which was given the contract to maintain and repair the devices for two years.

There are claims that repairs took too long and that branches of Advice Distribution were closed down.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the same source claimed that another Shenzhen manufacturer given a contract to produce tablets for the scheme has hit difficulties.

Shenzhen Yitoa Intelligent Control apparently requested a month’s delay in the delivery of over 800,000 devices due to a factory fire – a request that has been denied.

Seeking to play down the bad publicity, the government has already disputed local media reports.

Addressing the first claim, IT minister Anudith Nakornthap said that less than 1 per cent, or little more than 5,000 tablets, had been in need of repair rather than the 258,000 claimed, according to news site Thai Rath (h/t TechInAsia).

If there is any truth to the claims then Thailand is faring little better than India, where the Aakash scheme to put low-cost tablets in the hands of millions of students in 25,000 colleges and 400 universities across the sub-continent has been hit by numerous delays.

British biz Datawind has been blamed for production problems and a falling out with the Indian government which delayed shipments.

Now New Delhi is pushing ahead with plans for a 7-in Aakash IV device which it hopes will reinvigorate the scheme. ®

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