How to Upgrade Public Use of the Internet: Need for Leased Lines and Long-Term Planning [Archives:1999/05/Science & Technology]

February 1 1999

Internet has already gained publicity everywhere. It became part of life in the west, and is gradually entering the daily lives of people in developing countries. Yemen too has accomplished significant progress in providing good Internet services. Honestly, it has come a long way in terms of providing connectivity to individuals in many parts of the country.
However, there still are some obstacles facing the growth of public Internet usage in Yemen. Therefore, I think Teleyemen, the company providing the country with the service, should carefully consider some steps. Let me explain one of them.

After visiting Lebanon some 4 months ago, I noticed an extremely rapidly growing sector. It was the sector of Internet cafes. It is the swift increase in the number of these cafes in Lebanon that caught my eye. I asked myself “How can there be this many Internet cafes in Lebanon while there aren’t any at all in Yemen?” By Internet cafe, I mean a place where there are many computers Ð often more than 10 – connected to a network, which in turn is directly connected to the Internet through a permanent connection – called a leased line. It is a place where customers can use computers to link to the Internet and surf the web allowing them to benefit from the biggest information highway imaginable, for as long as he/she wants. Of course there is a specific charge per minute.

I have no doubt that there are many young Yemenis who are curious about the Internet, but do not have the access. They may not have the money to buy a PC or to subscribe to the Internet. In this case, the best way for them to get connected is through Internet cafes. But these cafes – in their true meaning- do not exist in Yemen. After some research, I discovered that the main obstacle is the tremendously high price of leased lines offered by Teleyemen. This does not only apply to Internet cafes, but also to all sorts of organizations like universities, and companies which wish to have leased lines but cannot afford them.

I am sure that such projects as Internet cafes would succeed if they manage to advertise, and attract customers through all kinds of quality services. Many examples of successful Internet cafe projects are evident in Lebanon, Egypt, and Jordan, which I visited lately and found hundreds of Internet cafes serving the public with competitive prices and high quality service. When asked how they succeeded, Internet cafe establishers answer: “Through the support of our Internet Service Provider!”

Indeed, Internet Service Providers (ISP) in these countries have given whoever wants to start a project like an Internet cafe all the facilities possible to make it succeed. They allowed them to pay for the leased lines and routers over a long period of time. They installed the network with minimum charges, and hence, lifted the burden of forcing project managers to get the money to buy and install the cables, hardware, and other expensive equipment that the cafe needs in order to operate. After some time, the cafe begins to attract customers, and gets more profit. In a short period of time, it manages to cover all expenses of the leased line and hardware to the Internet service provider, and manages to pay the rent of the connection per month or year. In a matter of months, profits double, for both the cafe and the ISP. Then after witnessing the tremendous success of the first Internet cafe, the ISP offers the same facilities to another Internet cafe project. After it succeeds, and pays the ISP back with good profit, another Internet cafe comes to life, and then another, and another, until the ISP profits reach record high levels worth millions of dollars.

I think that there is a lesson to be taken from the experience of Internet cafes in Jordan and Lebanon. Why doesn’t Teleyemen follow the steps of ISPs in these countries and play the same role in offering the public access to the largest information resource in the world. Sometimes life requires long-term planning for bigger benefits to accrue, not only financially, but also socially.
Historically, the most successful projects over time began with ideas, with sacrifice, with patience and with an initial investment.
Who knows? Perhaps this idea of facilitating leased line purchase might be a milestone for Internet growth in Yemen. And who knows? It also might be the strike of the century for Teleyemen.
Think about it!
By: Eng. Walid Al-Saqqaf,
Webmaster, Yemen Times.