Caroline Ashley

Caroline focuses on how innovative economic models can deliver more inclusive and resilient development.

Caroline has worked on markets, business models and investment approaches that deliver social impact for many years in roles with challenge funds, impact investors, entrepreneurs, corporates, NGOs and policy makers. As Results Director of the DFID Business Innovation Facility, and Sida Innovations Against Poverty programme, she founded the Practitioner Hub for Inclusive Business in 2010, then took on hosting it, and acted as Editor of the Hub for 7 years before it transitioned into InclusiveBusiness.net managed by IBAN.

Most recently Caroline led economic justice programmes at Oxfam GB, before moving to Forum for the Future, to lead global systems change programmes to accelerate our transition to a sustainable future.

$60 tablet launched in India - a step forward but not an inclusive business solution?

Innovation

BBC South Asia News today has an item 'Does India's budget tablet computer work?' The Aakash is a 7 inch android tablet, just launched at $60 off-the-shelf, originally appearing at a $35 subsidised price for students.

While welcoming an attempt at low-cost hardware, it argues that this is probably not the solution to get Indian students online on mass. It caught my eye because a BIF-supported project in Zambia, iSchool, is seeking to roll out online educational content to schools, and one of the issues in discussing viability is the (potentially-falling) price of hardware.

It's a good editorial from the BBC, agreeing that cheaper hardware is needed to enable students to access online content, but critiquing this particular project and its fit with the needs of students. For example, short battery life may be expected for $35, but will be a big constraint for students who can't charge at their desk and can't leave machines charging in common pool areas. The biggest criiticism is the lack of education content that exists: what does exist is e-books, which cannot be accessed by this tablet. Development of decent online content will take some time, and while that happens technology will have moved on and left this tablet redundant, Prasanto Roy (Technology Editor) argues.

It appears (simply on the basis of reading this article) to be a classic example of the challenges of inclusive business for low-income consumers. Making something affordable just is not enough. This is seen again and again (see the same story in a case study of Selco, on how solar power had to be so much more than just affordable to succeed). The article also makes me ponder i-School - if online educational content is so scarce that the BBC is talking of its absence in India, the steps that iSchool have taken in Zambia may have significance well beyond Zambia.

For more on iSchool, read the project summary. For more on how technological change will frame and drive options for inclusive business, read the July Editor's Choice on Digital Africa.