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The silent return of cyber cafés

By XN Iraki | October 28th 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Cyber cafés pioneered the Internet Age with every small town having quite a number. And they made lots of money as Kenyans eager to connect with the rest of the world flocked there. 

I once paid Sh 60 a minute to access internet at extremely slow speed. Then came internet into our homes.

Kenya Telkom pioneered using fixed phone lines, costing Sh2,500 per month for limitless access. With 300,000 fixed lines, this was a goldmine for cable TV and internet. One wishes Telkom was more futuristic.

Posta later offered internet too, more of if you can’t beat them, join them. Like Telkom, its internet too fizzled out. 

The next frontier was our phones. Internet could be accessed anywhere and everywhere. Cyber cafés suffered a slow and painful death.

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Why are they back? Is Covid-19 the Trojan Horse? One reason could be the variety of services they offer from surfing the net to printing.

The shifting of government offices online is another incentive. We can add other technical services like Green Card applications. It seems Covid-19 shifted more services online, enough to create a critical mass of cybercafés users.

The other incentive for cyber cafés could be online education courtesy of Covid-19. This has made even the most sceptical see the value of Internet.

As kids grow up, they will appreciate more the use of internet, unlike some of us who encountered internet while married.  

Could data bundles have become too expensive to drive us to cybercafés? 

The cafes could be taking advantage of economic slowdown which had left lots of men and women idle or hustling. Web surfing in such cases could be a good past time.

Remember Nairobi is a very hostile city. Where can you rest without money?

Naturally we conglomerate in hotels and coffee shops because parks are in short supply or misused by preachers or harbour mean looking people, or worse still, unmaintained. 

We meet in restaurants, not so much to take tea or food but connect with friends. Cyber cafés might be providing the same service, as we “drink” information.

The return of cyber cafés is an interesting phenomenon. It’s unusual for an idea to die and then resurrect. Or could this be one of Kenya ‘s peculiar habits?    


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