Wednesday, April 21, 2010

From Café to Walled City

Word Spreads

Once word of the availability of free Internet spread, adults from the community started showing up regularly. While helping folks use the Internet, the owner learned that most of his clients did not have bank accounts, and were forced to cash their cheques at payday loan companies and pay significant fees. Sensing a needed service that could also be a business opportunity, an alliance was quickly formed with a credit card company that allowed him to cash cheques by putting the money instantly on prepaid credit cards. Several times a month, when the different organizations send out cheques, there is quite a flurry of card activity at the centre.

The requests for Internet access grew, and the demand for food all but disappeared, so more booths were removed and computer work stations installed. At this point, computer usage was starting to overshadow his business and take an inordinate amount of the owner’s time. Some folks were homesteading on the computers and tempers were starting to flare, so a timecodee system was introduced to automatically limit usage. Soon people were offering to pay for additional time, and a new profit centre was born.

As part of his community activist role, the owner did not want people without any money to be squeezed off the computers entirely. First he instituted a program where anyone was able to receive a free 15 minute time code. Then, since he had always allowed those without financial means to do things around the centre to “earn” a soda, bag of chips, etc., he just expanded it to include computer time.
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The Great Ideazine

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