Internet cafes in Africa are nothing new. Still, affordable, fast internet access not subject to power outages is a rarity in much of Sub-Saharan Africa. Combining the cyber cafe concept with the latest solar technology and keeping a keen eye on the local cultural context, Chad Now recently set out to build a revolutionary solar-powered internet cafe for Africa.
The publishing of the paper "Solar-Powered Internet Café́s for Rapid Replication in Sub-Saharan Africa" in September of 2011 set off Chad Now's groundbreaking research into the proliferation of internet in Sub-Saharan Africa. The paper drew new connections between development in Africa and internet use, in addition to revealing great disparities in Internet access across the globe.
Chad Now centers the Internet cafe concept on the foundations of affordable startup, sustainable operation, cultural appropriateness, and excellent service. The model cafe, located in a low-income area of Chad's capital N'Djamena, is comprised of four laptop computers powered by a flexible solar cell system. In addition to simple internet services, the cafe also sells computer accessories and refreshments. Free educational courses make the cafe a learning environment, and free access periods allow locals to try out the internet before paying. Once they do, they pay an hourly rate 30% below market price, a step that expands internet access equity and is made possible by the savings of solar power.
After considering several proposed names, Chad Now opted to name the cafe after the 950km Chari River, an important body of water near the first Chad Now Internet café́
With the completion of concept testing in Austin, Texas - a process that took months of trial and error - Chad Now is moving into the implementation phase of Project Café Chari. The initial testing model for this revolutionary internet cafe will be deployed right in the heart of Africa. N'Djamena, Chad will prove to be a difficult operating environment for the project and its supporters, but Project Head James Gibson insists that the cafe has been a challenge from the start: "Internet cafes being shut down for lack of a mysterious government 'internet cafe permit' and partners submitting an $18,000 budget proposal to me...I knew this was going to be an interesting project."