The tale of free laptops for students in Pakistan’s Punjab province
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The tale of free laptops for students in Pakistan’s Punjab province

Pakistan’s Punjab province’s government is facing a tough time from various quarters for its e-Youth Initiative under which the provincial government is distributing free laptops among talented students of public sector colleges and universities.

The process of distributing laptops among 110,000 students across the province that fulfill the eligibility criteria is already underway. According to official figures, 63,690 Dell laptops have been distributed among the students so far.

While some call it a political show to attract youth by spending Rs 4 billion (Rs 90=$1) from the  kitty the others are critical of ignoring hundreds of government colleges where private sector is running computer labs because of the absence of state-run computer labs.

However the government believes the initiative to be “a move to bridge digital divide between the haves and the have-nots.”

Recently the Pakistani media reported that some recipients of the laptops have allegedly put the laptops on sale. According to a report of The Express Tribune laptops were reportedly being sold in markets for Rs20, 000 and lower than market prices by some recipients.

But a more recent report in the Daily Times newspaper has highlighted something different. It reported that “By procuring 110,000 laptops with inferior and outdated processors through a local company instead of directly from the manufacturing company at a much higher than normal price, the Punjab government incurred a loss of at least Rs 1.7 billion to the provincial kitty.”

The report claimed that the Punjab government bought Dell laptops with outdated Pentium-D processors for Rs 4 billion at a rate of Rs 37,000 per laptop while the retail market value of this machine was not more than a maximum of Rs 25,000.

According to the report the laptops being distributed among students are made by Dell, China, bearing model number InspironN4050, but the specifications of the machine distributed by the Punjab government are different from the same model in the market.

However the Punjab government rejected the report and claimed it did not incur any loss to the provincial kitty in the deal.

In an official handout the Punjab Minister for Education Mr. Mujtaba Shuja ur Rehman said the laptops procured by the Punjab government—DELL Inspiron 4050— had the latest Intel Pentium Dual Core B950 chipset which was latest among the Intel Dual Core family of processors and comes with the latest Intel Sandy Bridge HM67 Chipset. He was of the view the laptop had some great features including a 2GB RAM, 320GB HDD, DVD Writer, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3 in 1 media Card Reader, HDMI ports and a high resolution (1366 x 768) display and was an ideal platform to run all applications and address the requirements of students.