While India’s government is considering proposals from Datawind and other vendors to make the next version of the Aakash, the company has turned its attention to North America and the U.K. to sell its tablets directly to consumers under the UbiSlate brand.The cheapest version of the seven-inch tablet, the UbiSlate 7Ci, has a not-too-sharp screen resolution of 800 by 480 pixels, four gigabytes of memory, half a gigabyte of RAM, runs a current version of Google’s Android operating system and can only get online with WiFi. It sells online for $37.99 plus taxes and shipping. The next model up, the UbiSlate 7C+, costs an additional $42 to gain access to EDGE mobile networks. The most expensive model, the UbiSlate 3G7 at $129.99 plus taxes and shipping, has a better screen and processor and can also access HSDPA 3G mobile networks.Tuli says the company can sell the tablets so inexpensively because of the scale of its production runs and the fact that it makes its own screens, which helps boost profit margins. A preloaded web browser also displays ads that generate additional revenue for Datawind — although users can choose to download another ad-free browser — and the company monetizes some downloads of apps.Datawind has also kept its prices down by selling directly to consumers through its website and not seeking retail partners.“Something that costs $50 to make ends up at $150 easily at retail,” he says.“In our case, something that costs $32 to make ends up at $38 in the consumers’ hands.”This idea is to bridge the digital divide, it’s really that simpleTuli says he envisions the price of Datawind’s lower-end tablet slipping below $20 “within the next year or two,” especially if revenues from ads and apps grow.“We think pricing will continue coming down and we think features will continue going up. We will keep our high end between $100 to $150, we don’t see ourselves going up anything higher than that, but we’ll continue pushing the barriers on the lower end,” he says.While he insists that Canadian consumers won’t find the tablets lacking, the reviews for Datawind’s tablets in India were far from positive. And anyone who has used an iPad or a higher-end Android tablet will notice a major difference in performance.But he believes there is a strong market of consumers who are willing to trade performance for a low price.“What we tried to focus on was realizing that for our customer, price is the most important feature and starting with that element we said, ’What can we bundle in to provide a performance experience that would be good enough for them?”’ Tuli says.“You want something for your kids to take to school…. Kids are going to lose them or break them and you want something that you’re not worried (about).”The Canadian Press TORONTO — The Canadian makers of the “world’s lowest cost tablet,” the UbiSlate 7Ci, think $37.99 still isn’t cheap enough.They figure there’s still room to knock about 50% off its price and make tablet ownership possible for anyone and everyone.“This idea is to bridge the digital divide, it’s really that simple, the idea is to overcome the affordability barrier,” says Datawind CEO Suneet Singh Tuli during an interview at his Toronto-area office, one of five the company has in Canada, England, Germany and India.“We think as the Scandinavians do that (Internet access) is a fundamental human right.”On the second floor of an unassuming strip mall — strategically located within spitting distance of Toronto’s Pearson airport, where Tuli says he’s coming from or going to a few times a week — the Datawind team is working on its strategy to sell cut-rate “good enough” tablets.The company is best known for its work with the Indian government, which it supplied with low-cost tablets for a program to get technology into the hands of students. Datawind was recently named one of the world’s 50 smartest companies by the MIT Technology Review magazine for launching those tablets, branded under the Aakash name.AFP/Getty Images read more

The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, MINUSMA, is one of the toughest UN peacekeeping operations.  Peacekeepers stationed there have sustained severe and regular casualties from the activities of armed groups in the north of the country, and many civilians have borne the brunt of the instability, which includes deadly inter-ethnic clashes. The Force Commander of MINUSMA is the Swedish General Dennis Gyllensporre, He has had an extensive background in international peace operations, notably as liaison officer in Bosnia Herzegovina during the NATO-led Stabilization Force operation in 1997-1998, and also in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains, and in Afghanistan.  In an interview with Ben Malor from UN News, General Gyllensporre explained why the UN presence in Mali is essential.UN food relief agency doubles assistance in DR Congo Ebola hotspots The relentless campaign of airstrikes in Syria has been met with a “collective shrug,” the top United Nations human rights official said on Friday, denouncing the world’s apparent indifference to the mounting civilian casualties as a “failure of leadership” by the world’s most powerful countries.“Despite repeated calls by the United Nations to respect the principle of precaution and distinction in their conduct of hostilities, this latest relentless campaign of airstrikes by the Government and its allies has continued to hit medical facilities, schools and other civilian infrastructure such as markets and bakeries,” said Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.Drawing attention to the death toll caused by a succession of airstrikes in Idlib and other parts of north-western Syria, she pointed out that “these are civilian objects,” and given the persistent pattern of such attacks “it seems highly unlikely” that they were all hit by accident.Read the full story here.Military chief of UN’s ‘most dangerous mission’, in Mali, confident progress can be made Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, along with the heads of a number of UN agencies, expressed horror at Thursday’s reports that as many as 150 people may be dead after a boat they were traveling in capsized off the coast of Libya, making it the worst such tragedy in the Mediterranean this year.Several of the senior officials have called for a return to sea rescues in the Mediterranean.The Libya office of the International Organization for Migrants (IOM), published social media reports on Thursday that some 145 survivors of the shipwreck, mainly Eritreans and Sudanese, were returned to the Libyan shore. The survivors reported that some 250 were on the boat before it capsized, after engine failure.In a Tweet, Mr. Guterres wrote that he was “horrified” by the news, and called for “safe, legal routes for migrants and refugees”. His comments were echoed by the head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, and the UN children’s fund (UNICEF) chief, Henrietta Fore, both of whom also called for end to the arbitrary detention of refugees and migrants in Libya.Full story here.UN Human Rights chief says ‘increasing airstrike casualties are being ignored’ in Syria Senior UN officials call for return to sea rescues, after ‘the worst Mediterranean tragedy of this year’ As the Ebola crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues, the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) announced on Friday that it plans to double food assistance to people affected by the disease.One year after the start of the complex outbreak in the volatile eastern part of the DRC – and 10 days since the first reported case in Goma, the region’s biggest city – a WFP spokesperson  said that the UN agency is “stepping up preparations for a potential further escalation of the epidemic”. Over the next six months, WFP will significantly ramp up food assistance and nutritional support to 440,000 Ebola-affected people in DR Congo, the spokesperson announced, adding that this would include “primarily contacts of victims and their families, as well as confirmed and suspected cases”. Read more here.Eliminating hepatitis calls for ‘bold political leadership, with investments to match,’ UN health chief says Calling for “bold political leadership” ahead of World Hepatitis Day, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday urged countries to take advantage of recent reductions in the costs of diagnosing and treating viral hepatitis, and scale up investments to eradicate the disease.A new study by WHO, published on Friday in the Lancet Global Health magazine, found that investing $6 billion per year to eliminate hepatitis in 67 low- and middle-income countries would avert 4.5 million premature deaths by 2030, and more than 26 million deaths beyond that target date. A total of $58.7 billion is needed to eliminate viral hepatitis as a public health threat in these 67 countries by 2030. This means reducing new hepatitis infections by 90 per cent and deaths by 65 per cent.Read more here.Listen to or download our audio News in Brief for 26 July on SoundCloud: read more