Thailand plans to distribute about 1.7 million tablet computers to students and teachers this year, in what the government calls the largest handout of devices for education worldwide.
"This will be the world's largest amount of tablets given away by a government for education," said Surapol Navamavadhana, a government advisor involved in the "One Tablet Per Child" scheme, AFP reported Thursday. "This is the touch era. Whatever children do, they want to touch things," he added.
Thailand's Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) said nine companies from countries including China, India, Germany and the Netherlands will join an online tender this April to supply the tablets, according to the report.
Each tablet is expected to cost approximately US$100, making the total amount of orders to come up to more than 4 billion baht (US$140 million), according to AFP.
The tablets will be handed to primary students aged around 6 years, and middle school students aged between 12 and 13 years. Some 54,000 tablets will also be given to teachers.
The tablets will belong to schools for three years, and students can take the devices home. After that period, students will own the tablets, the report said.
Thai authorities are nonetheless calling on teachers and parents to ensure students do not use the tablets for too long. "Students should not use the tablets for more than two hours per day otherwise they won't be able to differentiate between textbooks and tablets," said Soratda Phumwiphat, another advisor involved in the scheme.
The ICT ministry said next year, the government plans to issue another 7 million tablets.
AFP noted that the current Thai government, the Puea Thai party which won the election in 2011, had then pledged to give free handheld computers to students.
About 850,000 tablets were already issued to Thai students last year, supplied by China's Shenzhen Scope Specific Development which cost 2.2 billion baht (US$75 million), the report added.