US interested about low cost Akash: Sibal

New Delhi: HRD Minister Kapil Sibal today said the low cost computing device Aakash has generated a lot of "enthusiasm" among the American public and several companies there have evinced interest to associate with the project to further raise its efficiency and productivity.

The Minister, who returned yesterday from a week-long trip to the US where he attended the first ever Indo-US higher education summit, said details of the product were also shared with the World Bank which suggested spreading it among the students world-wide.

"There was a lot of enthusiasm surrounding Aakash.

Several people and big companies met us who are into this business (IT). They expressed interest to partner with this project, to increase its application and speed, increase the processor from 300 MHz to 800 MHz," Sibal told reporters here.

However, he said the price tag of USD 35 willl remain the same and the US firms have agreed to this. The world`s cheapest tablet PC costing Rs 2,276, was launched on October 5 and it will be available at around half this price to students as part of government`s programme to expand education through information technology.

An initial order of 1 lakh devices has been placed with device maker Datawind. He said that World Bank has promised to display the item in its board and suggested to "spread it among the students worldwide".

Talking about the higher education summit, he said both the sides were of the view that there should be increased student exchange programmes through the process of bringing compatibility between the universities and switching over to a complete semester based system in India.

"We also discussed economic model which would attract more American investment into our education sector. We also felt more investment could come into the skill development sector," he said.

The US-India Higher Education Summit was held on October 13 in Washington DC, chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sibal.

He said a delegation from the US will visit India in December to hold detailed discussions on the themes that need to be taken forward following the summit.

"Next year, before the presidential election, university chancellors and govt officials will be here and thematic discussions will take place," he added.

Sibal said that the issue of sham universities like Tri Valley which left a bitter taste among several Indian students in the US also came up for discussion. He said India has made it clear that it has robust measures in place to ensure such universities do not enter the country.

"We said that Tri Valley like universities cannot come here because as per our proposed bill (Foreign Education Providers Bill), universities which do not have 20 years of experience cannot set up campus here. They should also be accredited," he said.