Akshat Rathi has a great article: Aakash is no silver bullet (it appeared -- without hyperlinks -- as an op-ed in The Hindu). Citing the failure of the OLPC project to live up to all the hype about how it would revolutionize education, he pours a lot of cold water on the idea that Aakash, somehow, is the magic gadget Indian kids have been waiting for.
Even if the government somehow, however difficult it may seem, is able to get access to cheap tablets, they are not going to help achieve its aims. Can a laptop overcome the negative impact of a bad teacher or poor school? Can it make children smarter despite the lack of electricity, water, toilets or playgrounds? Can it overcome the limitations of stunted growth among the malnourished? Can Aakash increase productivity of the workforce to counterbalance the money invested in it?
There is no evidence that it can do any of these things. [...]
He also has a follow-up post where he responds to comments.
* * *
While I have nothing against the R&D project on Aakash (especially when it is coupled with small-scale experiments on technology-enabled learning), I do have a problem with the vast, massive social experiment that the government plans to build around it -- all in the name of education. This obsession with treating gadgets as magic wands just doesn't make sense -- especially when studies have shown that laptops for school children are not such a great idea even in rich countries (and if you want links to studies on OLPC in other countries, go to Rathi's post). Why then are Indian states like Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh spending huge sums of money to give a laptop to their students?
I shared some of these and other similar thoughts with Samanth Subramanian who has a report on the turbulent ride the Aakash project has had in recent days.
* * *
Interestingly, Satish Jha, an official OLPC cheerleader in India, has an article trashing the Aakash project. It's a bit rich, isn't it, that a man working for a hi-tech huckster admonishes his fellow citizens for not learning from the masters about how to develop low cost gadget. What is he going to do next -- sell snake oil? Oh, wait!