Saturday, July 24, 2010

Roti, Kapra, Makan, Aur.....Laptop

I read a blog-post about Kapil Sibal, the Indian HRD Minister, announcing a new Indian-made tablet PC that would purportedly cost only $35. The post noted that India still doesn’t produce any of the components of such computers - the processor, ram and etc - and that each of these components, which would have to be imported, would cost near-enough the selling-price of the tablet PC, to make said PC impossible - at that price. Not to mention the fact that nothing has come up from a previous, similar announcement, by the same minister. But, fact is, no matter how outrageous the claims of Indian ministers might be, our Pakistani ministers can always top them.

LAS VEGAS - JANUARY 07: A Hanvon Touchpad, an Intel Atom-based Windows 7 tablet PC, is displayed at the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center January 7, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The unit has a 10.1-inch screen, e-Book content and includes handwriting recognition software in different languages including Chinese and English. It is expected to be available in March 2010, for about USD 700. CES, the world's largest annual consumer technology tradeshow, runs through January 10 and is expected to feature 2,500 exhibitors showing off their latest products and services to about 110,000 attendees. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
                  You like? I wantings the 35 Dollah

A case in point is the recent article in The News about the announcement by President Zardari that “presently the users of internet in the country are 20 million and in coming years they would reach to 200 million, adding, the present government wanted to provide internet service and a laptop to every home.”

It needs to be said, though, that The News’ journalists are not exactly known for strictly sticking to the facts, when authoring their articles. Not that I think that they play fast and loose with facts, but rather, they, possibly, lose their way when translating the Jang news in to English. Lost in translation, as it were.  

Still, when it comes to this piece of news, I have no doubts as to its veracity. This seems like exactly the kind of thing our dear leader would promise. Remember the good times, when we used to be told, every interview, that the electricity problems would be solved by the following month, until the poor minister, Raja Pervez Ashraf, decided that he had told that joke one too many times, and it had gotten old.

So then, as we all know, the Pakistani politicians are used to making bold, sometimes seemingly impossible, promises. But when the President was getting carried away, and got to the part about providing internet to 200 million people, in the coming years, somebody should really have stepped up and whispered in his ear, what the current total population of Pakistan is - to give him somewhat of a reality-check.

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 25:  President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari addresses the United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters on September 25, 2009 in New York City. The United Nations General Assembly is meeting for their 64th session featuring leaders from over 120 countries.  (Photo by Michael Nagle/Getty Images)
I'll get to distributing laptops right after I put up this picture

In Pakistan, a country where half of the population can’t even read and write, where the majority of villages aren’t even electrified, the President aims to provide a laptop to the dude sitting in his hut in Pindi Bhattian. And internet too!

Hypothetically, the laptops would be provided, already juiced up, so that the ordinary Pakistani can enjoy a couple of hours of surfing time, before the ‘low-battery warning’ pops up, and the man, without a single electric socket in his house-hold, comes crashing back to reality.

After that, confused as to what to do with the laptop, the man can try ploughing his field with it or feed it to his water buffalo, but it’s not supposed to be particularly useful for either of those purposes.

The point is: perhaps the President should concentrate on first meeting the basic needs of the Pakistani awam, and then dream about the days when every Pakistani would have a laptop and an internet connection. You don’t start off constructing a building with the top floor first.