A committee overseeing the One Tablet per Child scheme will likely make another U-turn on procurement by using a distribution model instead of a coupon giveaway.
Under a recent proposal raised by Education Vice-Minister Kitti Limsakul, each student would receive a coupon worth 3,000 baht, an amount deemed sufficient to buy a tablet with standard specifications for learners.
But Education Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng opposed the proposal, saying it would lead to an increased digital divide between the well-off and the poor.
Under the fiscal 2014 budget, the Education Ministry will have 4.8 billion baht to spend on 1.6 million tablets for Prathom 1 and Mathayom 1 students.
A final decision will be made next Monday, and procurement will take place early next year, said a high-ranking source on the committee.
The source said the distribution model allows 183 education areas to procure tablets themselves (each area covers 100-200 schools).
The Office of the Basic Education Commission (Obec), which oversees tablet auctions, will determine the device specifications.
The distribution model is expected to close loopholes in the process and control the budget.
The source acknowledged that the distribution model might invite too many computer brands, potentially leading to weaker security and content delivery.
Under the fiscal-2012 budget, the first year of the tablet project used the government-to-government procurement model, with Thailand signing a deal for Chinese-made tablets.
For fiscal 2013, the Thai government held an e-auction to select qualified bidders to supply tablets. The auction caused a delay in delivery, according to the source.
Obec is working with the Office of the Higher Education Commission to learn the real number and true cause of broken tablets supplied by Shenzhen Scope Scientific Development Co for the first-year tablet project.
The Office of the Auditor-General reported up to 30% of 860,000 Scope tablets were broken, but the Information and Communication Technology Ministry put the proportion at 0.6%.
"Obec needs experts to conduct a survey to verify the real figure and root cause," the source said.