Internet Cafés dying a slow painful death

04th October 2017
BAD BUSINESS: Internet Café’s are no longer profitable. Source:The Midweek Sun


By Keikantse Lesemela - Reporter

As the country is rapidly catching up with Information Communication Technology developments, Small Medium Enterprises in the Information Communication Technology industry are not benefiting from the developments. Recently visiting the Internet service providers operating as the Internet Cafes, The Midweek Sun learnt that since the introduction of smart phones Internet business has been gradually going down. Available figures from Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority indicate that Botswana has one of the highest record of mobile penetration at 176 percent, internet users stand at 21.4 percent while the fixed line telephony services stand at 8.2 percent.

Gaopalelwe Bodietswane, a youth who has operated an Internet café since 2008 in Kanye, said Internet business is no longer profitable due to the use of smartphones. “Internet services business is as good as non-existent because people are now accessing Internet through smart phones. In a week we can have three or five people,” said Bodietswane. He said in the first five years they used to have about 100 customers in a day.

They are currently making money through printing and photocopying services. Customers who come to use the Internet are only those who are doing online applications, but they are very few. In a week we make around P50 from internet services, sometimes we can make money from helping customers to install applications into their mobile phones, that’s when we can make around P100 in a day,” said Bodietswane.

Bodietswane is using Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) Internet connection offering both LAN and Wifi to customers. He said the free Internet provided by the village library has also contributed to the decline of their business. Currently BTC Hotspots have not yet been deployed in Kanye and there are about four internet cafés in the village. Shanthi George who started the business in 1999 said she used to have more than 100 customers per day but they have since reduced to less than five or none these days. She said if the government wants to provide free Internet access to customers they should come up with a proper strategy that does not kill the small businesses.

“As the Internet accessibility is now available to everyone everywhere our businesses are collapsing. Most of these businesses are operated by the youth so if their businesses collapse what will happen to them?” asked a despondent George. Another Internet Café operator, Thabang Kamodi said the internet service is not a profitable business. He said he is currently making money through photocopying and printing. “Internet service does not make money at all we are only operating the printing and photocopying services.

In a week we make less than P100 from internet users. People are now accessing internet from smart phones,” he said. In 2015 Botswana Fibre Network (BoFiNet) deployed Internet infrastructure (Fibre To The X) to provide Wifi connectivity in strategic areas around the country. The Wifi infrastructure was meant to ensure that Public Telephony Operators (PTOs) and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are able to respond to their customers’ mobility and trends, at affordable and competitive prices with the highest level of quality of service and customer experience.

BoFiNet Chief Executive, Mabua Mabua told The Midweek Sun that the market needs to continuously bring various ways that can allow consumers to enjoy to the fullest capacity. “We believe that as a country that has invested extensively in communications infrastructure and internet that comes into the country as a whole, the market needs to continuously bring various ways that can allow consumers to enjoy to the fullest capacity the potential that this infrastructure can deliver,” He said ideally, Public WiFi is one way of realising this return as it offers users the ability to access content and surf the internet affordably and conveniently. “The strategic areas selected thus far are highly populated locations, which means that the service reaches many and provides a wide range of benefits as intended. I believe the usage will continue to grow as more areas are covered and the market comes with innovative partnership initiatives that will translate to low cost for the consumer and increase penetration,” said Mabua.

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