The arrival of the smartphone as a modern tool of communication and the convenience it affords the user in browsing the internet, have seriously affected patronage in cyber cafés
| By Vincent Nzemeke | May 5, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
FIVE years ago, owning a cyber café was a money-spinning venture that attracted lots of people. On many streets in the Lagos metropolis, there were at least two or more cyber cafés where people could use internet services to check mails and stay in touch with friends and families on social media sites.
But today, the story is different. The cyber café business which was once considered a goldmine is slowly but surely going into extinction. Many of the ubiquitous cyber cafés on Lagos streets have either been closed down or converted to other uses. The few ones existing run skeletal services and record less patronage with every passing day.
The reason, according to computer analysts, is the rise in smart phones, as people now access the internet from the comfort of their rooms. “Internet cafes across the developing world, including Nigeria, are reporting dwindling numbers of customers as smart phones make the mobile web less attractive. After all, why pay for web access on someone else’s old PC when you can access Facebook and other internet facilities on your Smartphone device from anywhere you like? asked Maxwell Oge, an ICT expert.
Damilare Adeboye, an Abuja based Information Technologist, disagrees. According to him, a recent study has shown that people have continued to rely on public venues like the cafes to access the web. He said a five-year study released by the University of Washington in July, 2013 showed that web users continue to rely on public venues for web access even when smart phones are available. “One technology does not replace the other and smartphone will not solve the access problems,’’ Adeboye said. But many cyber café operators have complained that the emergence of smart phones had greatly reduced the number of people patronising their services.
Tunji Ayegbayo used to own a cyber café in Iyana Ipaja until October last year. He said he was forced to close down the business when it was no longer yielding the desired profit. “I was one of the early investors in cyber café business and I can tell you that it used to be very rewarding. But the case is different now and the profit has dropped. I had to close my own cyber café last year when the cost of running the place became more than the profit I was making”.
Sharing similar sentiments, Tunde Iyiola, a café operator in Ibadan, said many people now prefer to use their smart phones to browse rather than visit a cyber café. “Although we enjoy a reasonable level of power supply in this area, many people prefer to browse on their smart phones. The only time people come to the café is when they want to scan a document or do a print out,’’ he said.
Kazeem Hammed, another café operator, said he was planning to close his shop for another business due to low patronage. Hammed said that many of those who patronized cyber café had resorted to the use of smart phones rather than visit a café, adding that the new trend has stifled the business. “The golden days have passed. It is impossible to earn money easily like we did in the past. The few people that come to the café once in a while are the university candidates who want to print out their admission letters or scan a document. This is not too good for the business. The cyber cafés are not as attractive to the users as they used to be since most of their functions have been replaced by mobile internet devices,” Hammed said.
Analysts say that many people now prefer to use their smartphones because they are cheaper and more convenient. Chisom Maduike, said that she bought only N1,000 data plan for a month to browse her smartphone. “If my smartphones can satisfy my needs, why should I visit a café? It saves extra cost and provides me with the comfort and ease to do whatever I want,” Maduike said.
Emmanuel Oladipupo, a student of Osun State University, said after buying a smartphone a year ago, he stopped visiting cyber cafés. “I can play games and get news on my phone. Then why should I visit a cyber café again? Besides, these phones have the option of Wi-Fi and USB tethering; a person can connect his or her laptop/computer with the phone and surf the internet. Also, facebook, twitter, gmail, nimbuzz all these services are present in a mobile phone (even a feature phone), thereby reducing the need to go to a cyber café on a regular basis. My colleagues will rather play video games on their phones rather than go to a cyber café because it’s more convenient and cheaper. Most of my classmates have computers, and we need not go to the cyber café to search online information like our predecessors did,” he said.
Harrison Enyinana, a journalist, said the internet on smartphones was always on, be it GPRS or 3G. “If the pack is good enough, a person does not have to worry about spending any extra money on cyber café since the package has become similar to broadband. Also the price of an hour in a cyber cafe is about N140, whereas a subscription on smartphone is about N1, 000 per month. This means that it is cheaper to subscribe on smartphone than to visit a café, “Enyinana said.