The Indian government this week revealed a prototype of the Sakshat, its promised answer to the One Laptop Per Child low-cost computer.

The small computer — described by some critics as a glorified calculator with an Internet connection — is intended as the basis for an Indian government e-learning initiative to link the country’s 1,800 colleges and 400 universities.

The Sakshat — which means ‘before your eyes’ — and the networks supporting it are designed to allow students to access lectures, course material and tutoring help from anywhere in the country.

Designed by a team at India’s Vellore Institute of Technology, the Sakshat is expected to have 2 GB of onboard memory, a small LCD screen and wireless Internet connectivity.

Whether the government-mandated price point of 500 rupees (about (US)$10) per unit can be met remains to be seen. Officials say the Sakshat prototype, as it stands, would cost 1,000 rupees (about (US)$20) to manufacture, but that the efficiencies of mass production should push that figure down closer to the official target.

By comparison… The XO computer, the low-cost designed by a team at MIT in the U.S. for the OLPC project, was supposed to sell for under (US)$100 but the current version still costs about (US)$200 to make. The Classmate PC, an Intel project, currently comes in at about (US)$400 while ACER’s Eee PC retails for as little as (US)$200.

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