ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Buying into the Aakash Dream

A Tablet’s Tale of Mass Education

The low-cost Aakash tablet and its previous iterations in India have gone through several phases of technological changes and ideological experiments. Did the government prioritise familiarity and literacy about personal technological devices over the promise of quality mass education generated by low-cost devices? 

This research note is based on a project conducted as part of the Max Weber Foundation’s Transnational Research Group on "Poverty and Education in India," and draws from a paper recently published by the authors in History and Technology.

Introduction

The Aakash tablet, hailed as the vanguard of India's tablet revolution, was unveiled at the United Nations. It was to showcase India's technological prowess but was quickly lamented as a failed dream, and as India's object lesson in how not to do technological innovation. The so-called failure of the device became a metonym for the government that backed it, and for the technology establishment of the country. While our longer paper (Phalkey and Sumandro 2016) questions this notion of failure, in this article we wish to highlight the role played by the discourse and experiments in technologies of mass education in creating the practical context and the market conditions for low-cost tablets in India.

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