The World’s Cheapest Tablet to Kickstart Education in Emerging Markets

DataWind is Disrupting Education in Emerging Markets with the World’s Cheapest Tablet

The CEO of Datawind Ltd., Suneet Singh Tuli, spoke about how his company is disrupting Education in emerging markets by creating the world’s least-expensive Tablet, at this year’s Canada 3.0 Digital Media Conference in Toronto.

DataWind is a great success story of a Canadian company identifying huge market opportunity in an international market, creating the disruptive technology capable of harvesting that potential and continuing to lever the diverse and talented labour market in Canada to make education in the third world a reality.

Scale of the Challenge: India

With India’s large population, the issue – and opportunity – is presented on a massive scale. There are 140 Million kids in the K-12 age group that are not in school. Nearly half of students in grades 5-8 drop out, and nearly 70% drop out in Grades 9-12.

We are living in the age of mediocre education. Suneet stated the average teacher is no longer relevant. What happens when you have a bad teacher in school? You learn on your own. The internet now gives students the opportunity to get a quality education anytime – at the very least, it is a valuable supplement to their traditional education.

There is a strong need for affordability. But how do we bring this technology to developing nations? Through research, DataWind determined that to reach One Billion people, the computers would need to be priced under $50. This is based on a price that is less than 20% of the Monthly Income of the most people in India.

The Perfect Storm

You can see a market worth billions emerging – you want to get in right before it takes off. The people that saw cell phone usage spreading outside of major cities in developing nations are now in the wealthiest portion of the population; it is believed we are at this stage for computers as well. The perfect storm for this needs frugal innovation.

Frugal Innovation Requirements:

  • Innovative Hardware Design
  • Unique Business Model
  • Technological Breakthrough
  • Disruptive Distribution Model

Solving the Hardware Puzzle

For the Aakash tablet, the Research, Product Design and Development is being done in Canada. The multicultural mosaic brings skills and experience that are not available anywhere else.

Instead of focusing on building the “iPad Killer” like everyone else, they looked at building the key, core, basic features needed. Designing for cost, optimizing your feature set for the target audience. This is the opposite of feature over-kill, “good enough” for the consumer. What about the physical components, the supply chain? Suneet advices you develop the high-value components yourself, instead of going to the existing major players (Samsung’s tablet touch-screens, for example).

Technological Breakthrough 

Home Internet access is only available to 50 Million people in India today – but 900 Million people have Mobile Phones. To allow more people to connect, they made the congested networks more efficient. Because of this improvement, they can add in an online Advertising system, that could lower the cost of Internet on these devices to $0.

The World’s Lowest Cost Computing/Internet Device: The Aakash tablet that DataWind developed has the same CPU as the original iPad, double the RAM of the original iPad, yet it costs 10 times less.

Opportunities for Canadian Digital/Media Companies

There are 3 billion people with mobile phones, but with no Internet access. This poses a huge opportunity. For Canadian companies, one opportunity is to discover what the killer apps will be for the devices of future users. The focus should be on making useful apps that work without even being able to read! A point of sale terminal has been created, for example, that works where users take photos of their products and inventory, and use a graphical user interface – no reading necessary. To create more apps like this, there is a global call for Socially Responsible Apps to Empower Women – AppsToEmpower.org.

Getting Tablets to the People

The Indian Federal Government has made it a strategic priority to provide a nationally subsidized mobile tablet – that’s 220 Million Tablets. Other countries, such as Thailand and Turkey, also plan on providing Free Tablet PCs to all students – kindergarten to post-secondary!

What the Future Holds

How will the world change when the next 1 Billion people get on the internet? We know today, the Internet will empower the next level of education and action.

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