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Scepticism surrounds India's $10 laptop

Current prototype costs $20 to produce with officials positive that mass production will cut that cost by half

India has got the tech world abuzz with news that it will manufacture laptops that cost just $10.

Touted as the world’s cheapest laptop, it is expected to have 2GB RAM and Wi-Fi capabilities, running on just 2W of power.

The laptop, part of the government’s National Mission on Education project, was first announced in 2006 and draws on the efforts of students from Vellore Institute of Technology together with scientists from the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore and Indian Institute of Technology in Madras.

A budget of more than $939 million has been allocated for the development of the device, designed to increase the number of students in higher education from rural areas and boost the country’s future economic growth.

In an interesting twist, a spokesman for the Minister of State for Higher Education, D. Purandeswari, went on record last year to clarify that the price of the laptop would be $100 instead of $10 as initially stated.

Now Higher Education Secretary R.P. Agrawal has said that the $10 laptop will, in fact, be available within six months, according to reports by the Press Trust of India, and that they will be made available on a commercial basis once testing is over.

Agrawal also told The Times of India daily that the current prototype costs $20 to produce and is positive that mass production will cut that cost in half.

Officials have not publicly demonstrated a prototype or explained how it can be produced so cheaply, with bloggers calling it nothing more than ‘a souped up calculator’.

India had famously rebuffed efforts to bring MIT computer scientist Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop Per Child programme to India in the past, citing ‘hidden costs’ as the reason for its rejection.

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