Thailand decided to buy up to 900,000 tablet computers from China via a government-to-government contract with payment made in cash and produce for its One Tablet per Child scheme.
A memorandum of understanding on the planned procurement was signed by the two countries, said Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Minister Anudith Nakornthap yesterday.
“We are negotiating the price and payment options with China,” he said. He also expected the negotiations to conclude this month.
He added that the negotiation would be based on mutual benefit. “The negotiation will be fair to both sides. China is a big manufacturer. It can offer tablets at a competitive price.”
Nakornthap revealed that the government had already approved a THB1.9-billion budget (US$63.3 million) for the procurement of 560,000 tablets to the Ministry of Education, though the ICT ministry will handle the purchase.
However, he said that more funds would be needed because the Education Ministry plans to distribute the devices to all 860,000 first graders before the start of the upcoming semester in May. With some tablets to be given to children in other grades, the ministry will need up to 900,000 units of them.
“The Cabinet will be asked to approve the additional budget and purchase of tablets at its meeting next Tuesday,” he said.
According to him, Thai government has not yet finalised a prospective supplier list. After deciding which Chinese company will supply the tablets, the ICT Ministry will handle the contract.
“The tablet supplier and specifications are expected to be finalised this month,” he noted.
The three prospective Chinese suppliers are Huawei, ZTE and Lenovo. However, the discussion between the Thai and Chinese governments is still ongoing.
Huawei of China showed interest in participating in the tablet project, according to Michael MacDonald, chief technology officer of Huawei Thailand. However, he expressed the concern that the government’s request at US$60 a tablet is too low and represents half the retail price.
Huawei has the capacity to produce between 5,000 and 10,000 tablets in fifty days with durability of two years.
Huawei’s Product Manager Watchara Wetcharuwat said Huawei will fulfill the government’s requirements after the final price and purchasing conditions have been finalised.
The government’s tablet specification consists of a seven-inch display, a 1-gigahertz dual-core processor, 512 MB RAM, 16 GB of storage memory, wireless LAN support of 802.11b/g/n, 6 hours of battery life, and it must meet the Federal Communications Commission’s safety standards. The operating system will be Google’s Android version of 3.2 Honeycomb.
A source from Education Ministry’s Office of Basic Education Commission (OBEC), who asked not to be named, said Huawei is poised to win the contract for the government’s tablet scheme as the company has offered the lowest tablet price of US$60 per unit, down from the previous quote of US$80, with the first batch of 2,000 tablets scheduled for delivery on March 15 this year.
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