Few years ago, running a cyber café was highly profitable in Nigeria, while many people were attracted to that business.
Today the story is different; many cyber café operators can hardly make ends meet, while those who cannot persevere have left the business.
The reason, according to computer analysts, is the rise in smartphones, 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 smartphones 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? Mr Maxwell Okechukwu, an ICT expert asked.
Mr Oluwaseun Adeboye, a Lagos based Information Technologist, however said that a recent study showed that people had continued to rely on public venues like the cafes to access the web.
According to him, a five-year study released by the University of Washington in July, 2013 shows 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 complained that the emergence of smartphones had greatly reduced the number of people patronising their services.
Mr Kunle Aribisala, who has been in the cyber café business for seven years, said that patronage was low in recent times.
The 36-year-old Aribisala, has a cyber café with 10 computers in Osogbo, Osun State.
“Making money was easy in the beginning, when there were not so many home computers or smartphones.
“It has become more and more difficult to attract consumers. People would rather play with their smartphones,” he said.
Sharing similar sentiments, Mr Tunde Iyiola, a café operator in Ibadan, said many people now preferred to use their smartphones 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 smartphones.
‘’The only time people come to the café is when they want to scan a document or do a print out,’’ he said.
Another operator, Mr Kazeem Hammed, said he was planning to close his shop for another business due to low patronage.
Hammed said that many people had resorted to the use of smart phones rather than visit a café, adding that the practice was not encouraging 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 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 cafes are not so attractive to the users as they used to be since most of their functions have been replaced by mobile internet devices,“ Hammed said.
Mrs Ibironke Isiaka, another operator, said cyber café was a lucrative business before the advent of smartphones.
‘’You know technology is improving every day. Most people now use their phones to browse, and indeed, I do not see any reason why they should patronise the café again,’’ she said.
Analysts say that many people now prefer to use their smartphones because they are cheaper and more convenient.
Miss Chisom Maduike, said that she bought only N1, 000 data plan for a month to browse.
“My smartphones can satisfy my needs, why should I visit a café? “It saves extra cost and provide 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 cafes.
“I can play games and get news on my phone, so why visiting 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 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.
Also speaking, Mr Kolawole Idowu, 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 they have 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 to subscribe on smartphone is cheaper than to visit a café,” Idowu said.
As experts say, “one technology does not replace the other,’’ cyber café operators should exploit their areas of comparative advantage in order to remain in business. (NAN)