Google sponsors first tablet cybercafé in Dakar

In much of Africa, instead of just powering up a laptop or turning on a smartphone, many people's access to the internet is limited to using an internet café, or cybercafé, where computers are available to use by the hour. But keeping an internet cafe running in a place where power outages or high electricity costs are an issue can be a challenge.

The standard desktop PCs available at many places tend to be both slow (for the user) and power-hungry (for the owner), and can be tough for first-time users to learn to operate. And frequent power outages that can keep users offline for long periods isn't good for business.

But if these cybercafes used tablets instead of desktops, it may be possible to not only have more happy customers, but to also be able to save money on electricity. To that end, Google is sponsoring a trial of a tablet cafe in Dakar, called the Equinox, which now has 15 tablet computers to replace their desktop models, all of which are available to users for the same price as a normal session (about $0.60 USD per hour).

"When customers start a session on the tablet, they will find popular applications ready for immediate use, and can also directly download any application of their choice. They will be able to use the device comfortably seated on a couch, go to a private booth for a video chat or set their tablet on a dock and type away on a wireless keyboard. Once the session is finished, the cybercafé staff will help the customer perform a factory reset, to ensure that all of their private data on the device is fully erased." - Google Africa

Because tablets consume much less power than either desktops or laptops, operators could save a significant amount of money on electricity, and according to Google Africa Blog, these savings "can be reinvested in faster connectivity," which could help to bring the cybercafes more happy customers. And because they run on batteries, they aren't affected by power outages (although if the local WiFi connection is without power, it's still an issue).

It's also believed that the simplicity of the touchscreen on tablets could be a key element in bringing new customers to the cybercafes, which then has the effect of helping more people have access to the internet.

Tags: Africa | Technology