First a car, then a lunar mission and now a laptop—is India on the verge of setting new benchmarks for low-cost engineering?
It is undoubtedly a very tempting thought. We saw the prototype of the Tata Nano and the successful launch of Chandrayaan. And now, the government has unveiled a new $10 laptop that should give schoolchildren basic computing power and wireless connectivity.
The price of the laptop is one-fifth of what futurist Nicolas Negroponte planned in his doomed One Laptop Per Child programme.
Affordable technology is an unparalleled force for democratic change—and hence, such initiatives need to be welcomed. But there is no shortage of sceptics either. Negroponte himself says that even the display of such a laptop will cost more than $10. The government is still nowhere close to making these laptops anyway.
The Nano, Chandrayaan and the $10 laptop are important first steps. But the real test will be to create new price points without subsidies funded by taxpayers.