One of my most exciting projects last October/November 2006 was setting up cyber cafes in rural areas. It all started like a joke. A friend of mine wanted to start a business in Njoro (a large shopping centre in the Rift Valley about 25 km from Nakuru town) and he was asking for ideas on the kind of business. Being a self-confessed techie, I spewed out technology dependent business ideas. He politely pointed out that my ideas though good were not viable in Njoro as they needed email/internet facilities to work. We got to discuss how the internet could stir economic activity in Njoro, an area depressed of economic activity after the government ban on forest logging. (Njoro lived of the timber industry pre 2004).
My friend then threw down the gauntlet. "Hey Harry, you claim you're an entrepreneur and a techie, why not setup the internet infrastructure in Njoro?" I started to protest but then held off as I thought about it. Could it really be done? What were the challenges? How would I approach it? Here follows the story:
It didn't take long for me to settle on a cyber cafe as the best way to approach it. With a cyber I could introduce the public to the internet, train newbies, and generate some income to make the project self-sustaining. I convinced my friend with a concept note that a cyber could work and he set aside KSh. 300,000 (USD 4,285) for the project. I waived any consultancy fees since it was going to be on a very trial basis.
Now the challenges came thick and fast:
1. The budget was unbelievably tight.
2. There was no affordable ISP in Njoro
3. The internet literacy among Njoro residents was very low.
Still I struggled on and the outcome was incredibly satisfying. Read all about the setting up stage in my next post.