In the information technology sector, the two well-known categories of goods are hardware — the stuff you can hold in your hands — and software — the bits that have no weight. The third category is termed vapourware: hardware that exists only in the fevered imagination of their promoters, and which will never hit the stores.
The government of India recently unveiled a tablet computer that they claim will revolutionise education. Perhaps vapour does not translate well into Hindi, and therefore they settled on the word for sky, or Aakash, for the tablet.
Vapourware does not condense into hardware because it fails the pitiless test of the marketplace: that the product’s benefits exceed its costs. That constraint does not apply to the government-sponsored Aakash, because they can choose to ignore inconvenient costs through the simple expedient of spending other people’s money. The Aakash can be priced at any arbitrarily low number but that does not change the cost. The difference will be paid for not by Kapil Sibal but by the average citizen of India. And for what? To eliminate digital illiteracy, an entirely artificial malady, conjured out of thin, blue air.