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Mobile threatens Tanzania’s internet cafes

By Hudson Kazonta, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Owners of internet cafes in Tanzania say they are facing a growing number of technology challenges which may force them to change their billing methods or look to other lines of business.

Among the challenges facing them, they say, is the high data prices they are being charged by internet service providers, the availability of mobile phones which can access internet and the growing availability of modems provided by telecommunications companies.

One such internet café owner is Polyasi Dickson, the owner of the Bright Internet Cafe in Singida Town. He says while the costs of staying in business are increasing, he can not afford to increase his fees. The availability of mobile internet services is a threat to his business, he says.

Dickson says previously, his internet café charged users Tsh. 1500 per hour which is equivalent with 1 USD. “But now it is not easy to get customers, since people changed and started using modems,” he says.

“For example, for Tsh 2000 a Vodacom customer can buy 50MB of data and he or she can use for one month before it expires. In my internet café, Tsh2000 will last for one and half hours only.”

Because of the cost savings, many customers are now changing to modems. Internet cafes are starting to lose customers and seeing a loss every month of its operation.

Dickson says: “The price which is charged by the service provider is still the same while the number of customers using internet cafes is decreasing daily.”

He says when using TTCL broadband services, for downlink speed of 1 Megabyte per second (Mbs), which is unlimited download, the price per month is Tsh. 100,000 which is approximation of 67 USD, but at the end of the day he collects Tsh 90,000/-

“This makes the business too hard to continue with since it doesn’t produce any profits. You still have to pay for house rent, pay for cafe attendants and other charges like electricity bills,” Dickson says.

While he feels the growing availability of smarter mobile phones and modems to access internet is good for development as a whole, this progress is negatively impacting him and others like him.

Internet café owners are being forced to look for other jobs or businesses, since cafés are not producing the profits they did in years past, he says.

Around five million Tanzanians now have access to the internet, and this number is growing rapidly.

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