4 Reasons Why MTN’s $235,000 Internet Bus is Reinventing a Flat ICT4D Tire
June 24, 2014 Editor 0
TechMoran reports that MTN Uganda has spent $235,000(!) on an “Internet bus,” a mobile telecentre where a computer lab is installed in a bus to be driven around to underserved communities.
The MTN Internet Bus is equipped with sixteen high-end computer working stations as well as access to High speed Internet Connectivity Service using MTN 3G and 4G LTE Technology with Wi-Fi coverage.
Now I can understand their thought process. Rather than building multiple telecentres, replicating costs and operating expenses, why not build one telecentre and drive it around to different communities? However, since fixed telecentres are not sustainable, why would mobile ones be?
4 Reasons Why Mobile Telecentres Fail
- Lack of Convenience: Where fixed telecentres can be visited any day during opening hours, mobile Internet Buses are only available when they are in town. This means communities have to plan around the bus instead of their own lives, decreasing the desire to visit after the initial hype wears off
- Irregular Operating Hours: I have yet to see an Internet Bus stick to a regular schedule week after week, further complicating community access scheduling. Worse, if buses only come around every other week or less, community users will tend to forget learned skills in between visits.
- High Operational Costs: Have you seen the roads in Uganda? There is going to be much wear and tear on the bus itself, not to mention the technology, as its driven across the country. Good luck to keeping the bus and the tech running.
- Different Goals: Let’s be honest. Internet buses are not about providing Internet access to rural communities. They are about providing political access to government officials. So they are successful to some, hence their continued popularity, but as ICT4D practitioners, we should not promote them as solutions to rural access.
I have never seen a mobile telecentre approach succeed. Have you? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.
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