Education: The Aakash Tablet


1. Aakash – What’s the content?

One of the motives to make Aakash available for students was to have the NPTEL courses accessible on them. Now, with the launch of the Sakshat Portal,  can you think of ways to improve the standards of suitable educational content, and how they can be delivered directly to these tablets? Availability of MOOCs – similar to the availability of Coursera courses on the iPad, might be a first step. Is there another model?
Feel free to create Native apps/web apps/mock apps that can run easily on an Android platform (Ice cream sandwich) that proves to be student friendly.

Debate Question: Is it time to rethink how we deliver content on these tablets?



  • Understandable
  • Colorful and engaging
  • Ability for the best teachers to really get across to students

Issues and solutions

How to deliver video content to millions of tablets?

In house streaming is difficult since most places do not have high enough bandwidth to provide uninterrupted video to many students (3G coverage is very low, and GPRS is too slow).

So another option is to distribute videos via physical USB connection or wifi connection at schools. This might work better, since now the students will also have an incentive to go to school. A physical connection is also needed for another reason described later. We can compare these options now. We are assuming that there is a dire shortage of teachers and hence everybody has to get video for all subjects, and most of the learning happens through videos. Teachers are there just to resolve doubts as in the inverted classroom model.


Four or five fair quality videos of 1 hours each can be ~ 2GB. Assuming these tablets are pretty low end, and can only get a 5 MB/s transfer speed, this transfer will take 400s = 6 minutes, which is not too bad. If we assume all the transfers will be done within a timeframe of 4 hour, and there are ~ 400 students, we will need ~ 10 usb outlets, which might not be too difficult to provide. We can share one usb port from a computer via usb hubs.


Assume our low end tablet can again get wifi speeds up to 1 MB/s (802.11b is 11Mbps, which is similar). The videos now download in 40 minutes, which is reasonable enough. But, too many students downloading will definitely reduce the overall bandwidth to each student. Assume we have to provide the videos within a timeframe of 4 hours to all the students. Now, there needs to be at least 75 wifi outlets which will be much more difficult from a cost perspective.

Battery consumption

Videos consume lots of battery unless we have specialized video IP blocks within our processor. Even then, a low end tablet will not have more than 4 hours of battery life, which means our student will have to recharge in < 2 days if he is watching 2 hours of video everyday. Considering the poor penetration of electricity, probably providing usb outlets for charging at schools will be better. Assuming a tablet takes 1 hour to charge, this will require ~ 50 outlets per school (again assuming we have a 4 hour window in which anybody can charge their tablets).

Thus it seems video distribution needs a USB hub at every school containing ~ 20-50 outlets. One option to lower this is to provide one tablet every 4 or 5 student group, which will then lower the necessity for these outlets. Such groups will also spur group interaction, which can be a good side-effect. If USB is the way to go, it makes sense to build in more storage capacity so that students can refer to older material, which is a big advantage of online education. A 32GB model still can hold only last month’s videos.

Audio + ebook


  • Easier to distribute
  • Consumes less battery, thus overcoming the larger hurdles of video distribution
  • Can have fair amount of interactivity, if we include a pdf reader with each device, in audio questions can be done in the pdf.
  • Low storage requirements. Assuming audio is 1/10 of size of equivalent video, we are looking at a full year’s audio + pdfs all in one 32GB device.

Issues and solutions:

  • Not interactive, difficult to show logical steps than video, but better than books, and can be nicely complemented by a book or pdf with pictures.

  • Fairly cheap devices can still have interactive text and audio which can again be downloaded via USB. Cheaper devices will also mean the government has to foot a lower bill.

  • It seems better for each student to have one such cheap device. This can be based on e-ink technology like kindles, which will then cost much less and last much longer.

  • Fairly sophisticated or specialized material can also be distributed via this method to interested students.

  • This model is fairly non-interactive within different schools. In order to remedy this, we can encourage students to participate in question answer communities through their common tablets. Maybe we can also provide an SMS-based interface to asking/answering questions through the kindle-like devices.


Build a cheap and efficient device for reading pdf’s and listening to audio lectures by using an e-ink display. One can use reused displays from kindles available from ebay for ~ 25-30$. A resistive touchscreen can cost ~ 10-20$. After having a proof of concept on a board such as raspberry pi, one can look into building a more self-contained device. Intuitive alternatives to a touchscreen (joystick/arrow buttons) can also be investigated, since alternative keyboards in various indian languages can be difficult to mass produce.

2. Aakash – Time for an update

With several no-name manufacturers in Asia churning out tablets for less than $60 and with big companies like HP, Samsung and Intel working towards bringing high quality tablets for less than $100 this holiday season, how do you think the Aakash be improved in its hardware aspects and at the same time remain in its cost category?

We have a detailed list of specs that interested participants can go through to hammer out the best possible configuration, given the cost constraints.
P.S. – People are more than welcome to bring their own Raspberry Pis or Arduinos to test out stuff and show their work.

Link: Detailed draft spec sheet

3. Aakash – What’s the price?

The Aakash is also commercially available in the stores for a cheap price. Make a detailed price point comparison between the UbiSlate 7C+ and other consumer tablets and provide an abstract business model that can help Aakash boost revenue.

4. Networking of Campuses in India

Under the National Mission on Education through Info and Communication tech (NMEICT), each university and college is touted to get a broadband internet connection and standalone network-based solutions are being thought about for very low cost connectivity to student’s home. What are the ways to implement this (topology, cable type, server hosting capabilities, etc)? Can we extend this to schools, to build the primary internet access backbone for students?


Teenage Menstrual Health

Ayna Agarwal is a Symbolic Systems undergraduate major at Stanford (class of 2014). She is a co-founder of she++, Stanford’s first conference on women in technology. You can find out more about she++ at

Ayna wants to pose the following challenge.


Teens do not have an easily accessible, and reliable way of obtaining information about their periods while on the go. They do not feel a sense of community and often do not have a support system to ask relevant questions.


• A period tracker that acts as a daily educational tool and myth buster based on the individual female’s data and determine trends unique to her menstrual cycle to be able to provide relevant feedback
• A community of sisters to ask and answer bold and candid questions

Mobile Market and Girls

• Pew Research Center, “Teens and Technology 2013” a new survey of 802 teens, ages 12-17, and their parents:
– 78% of teens now own a smartphone
– 71% of teens with home computer access say the laptop or desktop they use most often is the one they share with their family members
– Older girls are especially likely to be cell-mostly internet users
– 34% of girls ages 14-17 say they mostly go online using their cell phone

• Neilsen Company: The percentage of US smartphone owners in the 18-24-year-old bracket grew 60% between Q3 2010 and Q2 2011, according to August 2011 data.


•Period Calendar/Tracker
–Over 5 million users and 5 mil-10mil installs in the last 30 days
–309,300 ratings with 4.5 stars

•iPeriod: ~12,000 stars in the app store 4.5 stars
•Period Tracker Deluxe
–Installs in the last 30 days (1 mil – 5 mil)
–24,799 ratings with 4.75 stars


Part 1: Calendar
The calendar will be the main draw for the users of the app — it is a period tracker. Most fundamental period trackers have these features:
A) Symptoms and Moods for each day
B) Calculation of menstrual cycle lengths
C) The ability to log your periods through the calendar

Part 2: Forum
The ‘Teen Issues’ forum on one period tracker app has 1,992,796 posts on it. Clearly, there’s a need. Create a forum that enables teachers, nurses, peers, and parents to respond.

Part 3: Education: “The Facts”
This will be official information we gather from public sites:
1) Pads +Tampons; 2) Signs of your first period; 3) PMS; etc.

Contact: Ayna Agarwal
ayna1 (at) stanford (dot) edu

Aakash – What’s the latest?

Student tablet

With several no-name manufacturers in Asia churning out tablets for less than $60 and with big companies like HP, Samsung and Intel working towards bringing high quality tablets for less than $100 this holiday season, how do you think the Aakash be improved in its hardware aspects and at the same time remain in its cost category?

We have a detailed list of specs that interested participants can go through to hammer out the best possible configuration, given the cost constraints.

To learn more about this challenge (and several others), check out the hackathon here.