Government free laptop scheme a boon or bane..??

By Shreenesh Raman

After gaining a thumping majority in Tamil Nadu assembly elections 2011, the government led by J.Jayalalithaa has announced her plans to fulfill certain schemes in phase manner. As given in the poll manifesto, she is now spearheading the free laptop scheme for students of government and government aided schools and colleges.

The scheme is welcome measure for students in government institutions. But, one need to think about the procurement and implementation part of the entire scheme. The Electronics Corporation of Tamil Nadu (ELCOT), a Government of Tamil Nadu undertaking is given the task to invite manufacturers for tender, selection of lowest bidder, issue work order for manufacturing and then distribute the laptops across the state. It is estimated that ELCOT might place order for 9, 12,000 laptops, and each piece costs around `15,000 bringing to total estimate to a staggering `13,680 Crore.

The Government has laid stringent guidelines for Original Equipment Maker (OEM), it has requested ELCOT to invite bids from well known brands like Dell, Acer, HP, Lenovo, etc. Earlier the government took similar care in implementing state level wide area network, TV distribution and other e-governance projects.

The sample system displayed by some manufacturers had the following configuration:
Display:         14inch
Processor:     Intel P6200 2.1 GHz or AMD Equivalent
RAM:             2GB DDR3 @ 1066MHz
Hard Disk:     320GB 5400/7200RPM
Graphics:       Intel HD 3000 Graphics
OS:                 Linux or Windows 7 Starter Pack (Dual Boot system)
Office Tools: Open Office or MS office 2007 Student edition (not yet confirmed)

Considering the above specification as an example the cost of manufacturing might come to ` 13,000.
Can the government afford to proprietary software’s for these laptops or simply jump into the world of open source.

Adopting Open Source..?
Questions like adopting open source and stability issues need to be addressed before giving away laptops to students.

Kerala Government's project for implementing open source is the best example through its IT policy in 2007. It partnered with Red Hat to train its technical staff and other employees from various departments across the state. It ultimately ended as a win-win situation, where Red Hat showcased the Kerala model to promote open source software development. It’s a big lesson for Tamil Nadu to learn from Kerala, thereby the TN government will utilize the free laptop scheme as a good chance to adopt open source and provide student a basic training through C-DAC.

Operating System..??
In India, the C-DAC has developed an open source Linux known as BOSS Linux with the help of International Free and Open Source Software Foundation (iFOSSf) . This distro can be installed as a basic operating system.

Localisation of study material:
Linux in Tamil Img Courtesy: Flickr
Public Schools and Boarding schools are popular in cities and major towns, but in a country like India the ground realities are poles apart. More than 30 languages in 28 State and UT’s are a bottleneck for any IT services companies.
Proprietary operating system like Microsoft tools offers language support for Hindi in India. So, to get rid of the language barrier, Linux is best available option which supports 18 Indian languages and more. The key to localisation can be achieved easily. Moreover, programming tools for software coding are available in open source distribution. The updated GNOME 3.0 is more stable and also offers a Windows ‘like’ environment for Linux users.

Infrastructure & Suggestions:
The TN govt. free laptop scheme is an upgraded version of United Nations one laptop per child (OPLC). It can be implemented in a best way by developing a wireless mesh network around schools and colleges across the state and connecting the same via OFC to a central data centre. All teaching lessons and education related software’s can be distributed, if required students can attend e-learning classes when a particular subject teacher is on leave.

Infrastructure for setting up training and service support won’t be a problem since, Tamil Nadu Government Wide Area Network (TNSWAN). The ELCOT is running a command and control centre in Chennai and C-DAC has its support centre in Taramani, Chennai which can be used as a central hub to build a warehouse.

The Tamil Nadu Government has set stage for bright future for the student community in the state. So, let’s wait and watch whether the scheme is Boon or Bane!


  1. Only today people are talking about it. That too beating around the bush. You rock bro...

  2. its quite difficult to learn Red Hat for school students.Ubuntu will be comparatively easy.

  3. Then, we can use our own BOSS linux customised to indian conditions. Options are many, its upto the govt to choose a wise path.

  4. To be frank i have not tried BOSSLINUX.What i feel is students must be given easy to use OS.Trainings of such magnitude will not work.If BOSS LINUX is as user friendly and installation friendly as Ubuntu or Windows,it can be tried.But since the numbers involved are mind blowing,we cant take risk with a unstable OS.Also we have to remember many of them will be rural students who have 2 be given a friendly OS.

  5. any one pls help me to configure wireless network in BoSS linux