India govt to foster app ecosystem for Aakash tablet

Country's government wants to develop a constantly-growing ecosystem of education-related apps for the budget tablet aimed at students.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

The Indian government wants to build up an ecosystem of applications, mainly related to education, to run on Aakash, the world's cheapest tablet targeted at India's students.

The government has formed a four-member technical committee that will look at creating the ecosystem which will continuously release apps for Aakash in the years to come, The Economic Times reported Monday.

Committee member Ashok Jhunjhunwala, who is also a professor in IIT (India Institute of Technology) Madras, said about 25 academic institutions and private companies are already on board to develop apps, and the aim is to double the number by March this year.

At the same time, IIT Madras will put 5,000 engineering students through a four-day crash course on Aakash in the hope that they will build applications for it, he added.

Jhunjhunwala said the app development will focus around education, such as live broadcasts of lectures or interactive e-book apps.

Currently, the Aakash tablet--which the Indian government buys for INR 2,263 (US$41.65), but charges students INR 1,150 (US$21.16), comes preloaded with 24 apps although these are to do with gaming, mail or chat, the report noted.

DB Phatak, a professor at IIT Bombay, said: "We need apps specific to Indian education requirements and that's where the need to develop a home-grown Aakash apps ecosystem."

Besides IIT Bombay and IIT Madras, the committee includes personnel from the Center for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC) and an entity from the Ministry of Human Resources and Development, which is funding Aakash, the Economic Times report said.

According to the report, among the 25 organizations helping to develop and grow the Aakash app ecosystem are academic institutions such as the IITs and American Digital University, private companies, and service providers.

U.S.-based Mango Learning is one of the private companies, and it is developing apps to teach mathematics through games. "The tablet, by itself, is a dumb device and that's where you need apps," Prakash Ahuja, CEO of Mango Learning, said in the report.

According to Ahuja, the company intends to provide one free app embedded in Aakash and charge INR 49 (US$0.90) per download for any of its over 400 mathematics-learning apps.

Editorial standards