Faulty, cheap laptops being distributed among students under PM’s youth programme

  • 300,000 laptops distributed so far, 500,000 to be provided by 2018

ISLAMABAD: Though the government targets distribution of 500,000 laptops and internet dongle devices each year among MS/MPhil, PhD, Masters, and Bachelors students by 2018 under Prime Minister’s (PM) Youth Laptop Scheme, the students have complained of being given cheap and faulty laptops.

“The laptops received by the students are cheap and of poor quality,” a retailer at a renowned electronic market in Rawalpindi told Pakistan Today, adding that “at least 8 to 10 students visit the market to sell their laptops daily, but they hardly get Rs8000 to Rs10,000 as the quality of laptops being distributed under the PM’s scheme is very poor.”

“Not only the quality of the electronic item is the issue here, there are multiple reasons for rejection of the laptops. The spare parts of the laptops of the particular company are not available in the market,” a shopkeeper who repairs laptops at the market said. “The specific spare parts centres, notified by the government, ask students to pay a much higher price, and that too in advance, and ask to wait for at least two to three months citing the reason of short supply from manufacturers,” the shopkeeper added.

“For a keyboard of the laptop, which costs around Rs1,000 in the local market, the service centres charge Rs3,000,” he said.

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Upon confirming, a certified service centre at a renowned market in Rawalpindi told Pakistan Today that the issue was related to the short supply of parts from manufacturers/assemblers. The centre also verified what the retailers claimed about prices of the spare parts, issues related to the quality of laptops and advance booking of parts.

Another repairer of the laptops at the same market claimed that the new laptops (of touch keyboards), being now distributed among students, have more issues as compared to the ordinary laptops. The hinge of the laptops frequently break and the required spare parts are hardly available at the service centres, he informed and said that the spare parts of the new sets are also not available in the market.

“We wonder, how government claims that it is distributing laptops of Rs30,000 to Rs40,000 each when the same is being sold at merely Rs10,000,” said another shopkeeper at the market adding that higher authorities should investigate the matter as the electronic items are being provided to the students at the expense of billions of rupees of tax money.

The basic aim of the scheme is to promote the use of laptop and ICT for higher education and research by bridging the digital divide. In a phased programme (2013-18), the government has planned to distribute 100,000 laptops and internet dongle devices each year among MS/MPhil, PhD, Masters, and Bachelors students. Total budget allocation for the five-year programme stands at a little over Rs25 billion.

When contacted, Prime Minister’s Youth Programme Coordinator Navaid Ilahi said that he would take notice of the issues related to laptops as the issue was not raised before him. “Though we have strongly instructed the service centres to ensure availability of spare parts of the electronic items, we will check where the problem is,” he said. He, however, denied sharing details about the cost of the laptop being provided to students and issues related to their quality.

He said that almost 300,000 laptops had been distributed so far in the three phases of the scheme. At least 500,000 laptops would be provided according to the five-year plan, by 2018.

Earlier, Youth Programme Chairperson Leila Khan had claimed that in order to promote Information Technology (IT) manufacturing industry and to contribute significantly towards the country’s economy, the first time in the history, Haier Pakistan, vendor of the scheme, has established a state-of-the-art Laptop Assembly Plant in Lahore.

It may be mentioned here that the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan supervises the distribution of the laptops under its authority among the students and professionals across Pakistan.

 

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Ghulam Abbas
Ghulam Abbas
The writer is a member of the staff at the Islamabad Bureau. He can be reached at [email protected]
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