While we believe that as many people should have internet access as possible, as a small foundation we would never be able to provide access to even a fraction of the people not currently online. In recent years, internet cafes and other public places have offered many people their first opportunity to get online and doubtless provide a service that many millions of people value. Despite receiving a number of applications from internet cafes and others, this is not something we can fund. First and foremost, we would not be able to do more than scratch the very surface of the problem. Secondly, internet cafes are often run as for-profit ventures and should successfully be able to generate income from sources other than charitable foundations. Thirdly, we are most interested in how organisations and individuals can use technology they or their beneficiaries currently have access to. Take a look back at the grants we have awarded and it’s easy to see how different groups have made use of such simple tech services as SMS, USSD and old-fashioned voice calls.
We do support a number of tech and innovation hubs across Africa, although these are radically different to traditional internet cafes. On the whole, the hubs that we support are places for developers, coders and others to come together to work on technological solutions to the problems their communities are facing. They are often places where start-ups and tech entrepreneurs can access services, mentorship and training. They are not primarily places just to get online, but offer a great deal more.
While we’d like to be able to help get more people online, the reality is that we are simply not best placed to do it.