Friday, January 12, 2007

Internet in the village

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.


Anonymous said...

I absolutely love your blog. Keep it going. I am sort of in the same industry, and have recently ventured out solo so reading your experiences is encouraging.

Harry Karanja said...

Thanks David for your comments. Please feel free to share your own experiences on this blog. I'd love to read bout them.

Trybless said...

Wow that would so nice to start the internet in Njoro, That is my shagz and I have spent quite some years down there

jke said...

Interesting! I am curious to read about the follow-up and how you managed to get an inet connection to that area.

Harry Karanja said...

Hi future diplomat and jke. The next post on the "how" is out. Happy reading

Joshua said...

amazing article! We want to hear more!

Josh said...

amazingly am a young enterprenuer in my early 20's.everyone works on a mind paradigm that cyber cafes can only work in urban centres & as though not enough people get to zero in to CBD's.l wanted to launch out a major cyber & all the advice that came my way dictated,"young boy...go CBD's to make a catch".l differed strongly to this illusion & decided to set up a major cyber @ a very high cost of investment in a rural setup but in a Nairobi,an area that was initially striked by young idlers & the effects of idle minds were not year down the line am glad that l made the decision to set up a cyber in a rural setup,not only is the business refreshing my life but young people gat a hurb where to spent their time researching on global opportunities,job vacancies,project etc all done online.crazy enough its the 1st cyber cafe at the moment in an enlarged scope that offers 30CENTS browsing per minute,so affordable to all castes of people either employed or not.l would wish to encourage folk of the same mind $ tell them it works people.major challenges were introducing guyz to internet,some social sites,some computer training at little fee,here we adresssed only a single package that we called "INTERNET PACKAGE".after this any1 would comfortably navigate through internet.awsome awsome.same minded folk go for it!