SouthAfrica.info (Johannesburg)

South Africa: Start-Up Takes Computing to the People

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"They were gathering dust and this bothered me," he says. "The teachers had no skills to use them, and they didn't have access to the internet."

This is what sparked his idea to start a business that would give people in Khayelitsha access to the internet and teach them how to use computers as well as how to access the information stored on the web.

Within a year of starting up, he won best entrepreneur in the Western Cape. "And then it all grew very, very fast," he recalls.

Initially, his main goal was to use the facility as a computer skills training venue for teachers, but soon the business started to meet a major need for computer services in Khayelitsha.

"People needed help. They could operate Facebook, but didn't have the skills to type out their own CVs. People couldn't differentiate between a fax and e-mail," he says.

The absence of computer skills, or the technology and facilities to learn, is a dilemma for many people living in townships and remote areas in South Africa.

"If you don't have computer skills, you are at a disadvantage in the job market," says Rani.

To add to this predicament, people often have to travel long distances to an internet café to distribute their CVs when searching for jobs.

"People have to do this at great expense and it takes a lot of time."

The Silulo Internet Café caters for both needs, and Rani has ensured that the pricing of his services are within reach of the majority of South Africans.

An affordable service

"What is central to my business model is affordability," he says. "Our prices are low." He believes that companies operating in emerging market economies should adjust their business models and profit expectations.

"It is essential for entrepreneurs in these markets to be socially minded and not only profit-driven."

For just R6 (70 US cents), Rani's customers can access the internet for one hour, whereas some internet cafes in the Eastern Cape charge as much as R30 ($3.38) an hour, R10 ($1.12) to send a fax and R3 (34 cents) for a photocopy.

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