Saturday, May 14, 2011

Silvann Interent Cafe

Under the metal canopy of a tiny restaurant in Namulanda, Ronnie spread a few chairs so that I’d be protected from the sun as we met. Ronnie is the young man who was working to find a job last time I was here; jobs are still scarce. With a few used computers collected from friends, and a little startup money from a random project, Ronnie opened a small internet café. Having formerly worked in such a café, he is well equipped to operate such a business.

Together we called the MTN guy about unlimited internet access for his café and learned that for up to four computers there is a 1 million UGX ($500 USD) installation fee and a 400,000 UGX ($200) monthly charge. I will definitely think twice before complaining about paying $28 USD monthly at my home in the States. These fees are out of his price range, and probably always will be with only four computers, so he’ll continue charging customers for small blocks of time. The problem with this arrangement is that internet use is actually charged by file size.

For example, Ronnie has the MTN store load 1G of internet data on his modem. Data is the only way to purchase internet access except as noted above. Then he uses the 1G modem in the internet café and can only charge based on 20 minute blocks of time. This standard hurts all internet cafes, but without industry unity one café cannot break out of this pricing model. Customers then come to the café to do the expensive downloading rather than use their own data bundle.

To help Ronnie increase his business income, and to meet the needs of people who regularly ask me to develop a website for them, we began making plans. We talked about teaching people how to build websites and/or blogs for themselves using a workshop format. From there, those wishing to actually build can do so at Ronnie’s internet café with his help. I’ll give Ronnie extra training and support so that he becomes the local expert in a field of high demand.

Air movement was scarce under this metal canopy as we discussed possible workshop meeting locations, how to market the workshop, and additional logistics related to making the event a success. As we talked, Gabriel, Frank, Herbert, and Eddie arrived and the meeting turned into a friendship gathering. What a wonderful day.

Lest your American imagery of the term "internet cafe" take you to a view of Starbucks, the photos show an increasingly widened view of the small cafe. Notice the building on the left with the metal roof, as this is where we met.