Mobile Phone Powers an Internet Cafe in Bangladesh

Posted by CorinneRamey on Oct 08, 2007

Abu Sufian's small room in Fultola, Bangladesh looks like a standard Internet cafe. There are four workstations -- each with a mouse, keyboard, and monitor -- where customers can check email or browse the Internet. But this isn't just any Internet cafe -- the center is all made possible by one mobile phone.

According to this article from, this "Community Information Center" only has one computer, which acts as a server for the other workstations. Internet access is provided by the EDGE-enabled (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution) mobile phone. From the article:

But look inside and you find that this "Community Information Centre" (CIC) is radically different from a typical Internet cafe. For one thing, there's only one PC, which functions as a server: each of the other workstations is powered by a small device, not much bigger than a cigarette packet. For another, there's no wired connection between the server and the outside world. Yet the Centre is clearly hooked up to the Net. The customers are browsing the web and sending email. The clue to how it's done is provided by a Motorola clamshell mobile phone connected by a USB cable to the server. The Centre is getting its Internet connection via an Edge-enabled mobile phone! Or, looking at it another way, a mobile phone is giving four people simultaneous access to the Net!

The project is sponsored by the Ndiyo Project, Grameen Phone, and Grameen Telecom. A Cambridge based company called Newnham Research (now called DisplayLink) developed the thin-client networking technology. The computers use Linux open source software to cut down on costs.

This project has great potential for the developing world because it's economically sustainable and significantly cuts down on costs. Only one computer is needed to provide Internet access to multiple workstations, providing people with information about jobs, health, market prices, and a link to the international community.

You can watch a four minute video about the project on the Ndiyo website. The video features information on the program, in addition to some nice shots of bicycles, motorcycles, and even a goat wandering around outside the center.

Photo credit to Mark Surman.

telecentre mobile

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