Bringing computers to rural Chad (Tchad)
Last November, we posted on how Chad Now, a non-profit operating in Chad, hopes to establish a solar-powered Internet cafe in Chad as part of a broader series of small-scale, short-term development projects. Chad Now President James Gibson has since returned from Chad and shared stories of bringing computers to a rural community. A video from the trip (included above) shows the entire process of setting up the solar power source to empowering Chadians to promote computing in the local community.
Here’s what he had to say:
We’re continuing to work with partners in Chad and France to make the internet cafe a reality. I’m still working to finish chadnow.org, including some needed updates to the plan for the internet cafe. This was my first trip to Chad since 2008. When I was there in 2008, none of the internet cafes even had computers, because they had been looted in the most recent coup d’etat. As of 2012, the internet cafe market in N’Djamena is fierce. Many exist, and now the government charges $12,000 for a permit (it’s rumored that major players like Tigo and Airtel are jumping into the cybercafe market). The rest of Chad is a stark contrast. I received reports late last year that the last cafe in Moundou had recently closed down. I was also in Abeche on my trip; we used internet from WFP there. Moussoro, a town of about 50,000 where we have repositioned our internet cafe effort, doesn’t even have running water or electricity, not to mention cybercafes. I’m working with three partner organizations to push for a cybercafe in Moussoro. Hopefully it will be a reality in 2013.
James also shared an anecdote of how a colleague spotted a crew of men burying a cable between N’Djamena and Moundou. Upon approaching the men, he discovered they were laying fibre optic cable. What a great confirmation of infrastructure development.
Very little news of ICT development is making its way out of Chad, so before we close, James has provided a couple of more nuggets on how difficult it is to establish an Internet cafe in Chad:
- The cost of government “permission” to erect an internet cafe in N’Djamena seems to be made up of two items, a permit (autorisation de fonctionnement) and a tax (fiscal). These costs and others are listed in a file I attached, which is a cost proposal submitted to me by Chadian employees of a partner organization last year. Although I used the document more for reference than any real consideration of budget (their proposal is so lavish, I think it would make a wonderful cybercafe in Austin, and providing basic internet access in Chad is more reasonably at my $2,000 price mark, not the $17,348 material cost they quoted). They priced the combined government fees (tax and license) at $1,024. Nevertheless, this price mark is for an internet cafe registered by a Chadian. Foreigners (whether it be an African-owned telcom or….me) enter into a whole different tax and licensing fee schedule, and as per a reliable source who lives in N’Djamena, foreign persons/organizations/companies face a combined cost of ~$12,000 in government fees.
- Although computer-based internet does not exist formally in Moussoro, some residents try to use “internet” on their mobile phones. Reports indicate it is unbearably slow at peak use times, and slow at other times (this network is basically the US equivalent of Edge, not 3G). Furthermore, I found no residents who have mobile devices that rival the usefulness of an iPhone or even a Blackberry. This is a contrast to N’Djamena, which has good mobile network coverage and many residents on smartphones (I saw real, Apple-made iPhones, and Android phones are the new fad).