Growth of mobile internet spells doom for cyber cafes

Tom Ndizeye has been making a living out of his city centre based Internet café for over five years. But his days in the café business seem to be numbered as both client and revenue diminish.
Internet enthusiasts enjoy free connection at the kLab. The New Times/ John Mbanda.
Internet enthusiasts enjoy free connection at the kLab. The New Times/ John Mbanda.

Tom Ndizeye has been making a living out of his city centre based Internet café for over five years. But his days in the café business seem to be numbered as both client and revenue diminish.

“We used to receive about 200 clients daily. These included students, civil servants and members of the business community who came to surf the internet, learn how to use a computer, among others. But that is not the case today,” he told The New Times on Monday at his business premise.

The 28-year-old said today he receives about 10 people a day.

His cafe opens from 7am to 8:30pm and charges Rwf100 for an hour to use the net services.

Ndizeye is among internet cafe owners in the country whose business looks uncertain with the advent of mobile phones and free internet access.

“The mobile internet has greatly affected our business because the number of people visiting our cafes has drastically declined,” Ndizeye said from a corner of the cafe with 20 computers connected to high speed internet. All were deserted for almost two hours.

Abdul Hitayaremye, the proprietor of Iwacu internet cafe in Nyabugogo, shares the same sentiments.

“Before the introduction of mobile broadband and USB modems, our business was doing well. Now, everything has changed. People use their mobile phones to access the internet,” he said.

Hitayaremye claims the latest mobile technology has affected profitability of internet cafe businesses.

In fact, most cyber cafes within Kigali are empty for the better part of the day, a phenomenon that will certainly lead to the collapse of the once lucrative business.

And with plans to increase mobile broadband penetration to 80 per cent broadband across the country over the next five years, almost every Rwandan will be able to access the internet services without visiting cyber cafes.

Fourth Generation internet

Already, laptops and mobile phone owners can access fast internet connection without visiting cafes, by logging on through free wireless internet hotspots in various restaurants, bars, hotels and bus stations within the city.

In June, the government signed an agreement with South Korea’s largest telecom company, Korea Telecom to deploy a high-speed Fourth Generation (4G) broadband network across the country that will see Rwandans access fast, reliable and cheaper Internet services.

The project targets to cover 95 per cent of the population within three years, according to the joint venture deal that is based on an initial 25 year term.

The 4G broadband network that delivers download speed of up to 100 Megabytes per second is almost three times faster than those previously available in the country like 3G and 2G.

“I have got a mobile phone which offers fast connection to the net. Smart phones are raising the stakes and pushing more internet possibilities and opportunities because they have enough processing power to stream high-definition video,” Yvan Manzi, a computer science student at Kigali Independent University (ULK) told The New Times.

“People these days chat, twit, facebook and read news from their mobile phones, so who will want to pay internet café fees?” he wondered.

However, not everyone is predicting the death of the cyber cafe.

According to Didier Nkurikiyimfura, the director general in charge of ICT at the Ministry of Youth and ICT, there will always be demand for internet access from people who may not be able to afford a mobile net connection.

“It’s digital evolution which is creating more opportunities for people but this will not stop cyber cafes from operating because a big number of people who have access to mobile internet enabled phones still use cyber cafes,” he noted.

“Much as we encourage the growth of mobile internet, we also should encourage cafes to continue operating.”

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