Geekcorps in partnership with USAID has launched a mobile computing kiosk program called Cybertigi aimed at Mali’s desert areas. “Cybertigi” is a mobile computing kiosk program aimed at empowering local entrepreneurs to create their own micro-businesses selling cyber services such as email, voicemail, printing, photography and web-based information. A “tigi” is a local tradesman in Bambara, the local language; thus the Cybertigi offers services during market days in local towns and villages. While the first Cybertigis are using fixed locations, the goal is for mobility, with all equipment in a cart to enable travel between markets, enabling the vendor to expand the customer base and for far more to benefit from these services.

Cybertigi mobile kiosks comprise a low power, ruggedized VIA pc-1 PHD (Power, Heat and Dust) appliance linked to a Nokia 770 mobile phone, plus an LCD monitor, printer, scanner and digital camera, all of which run off car batteries – essential in low- or no-power areas. Voicemail is proving very popular for the largely illiterate population, as is photography and e-governance services such as land registration. Services are usually asynchronous, with package up- and downloads batch-processed when the vendor can access an Internet connection, and with reply mail and information delivered on the following market day.

“Although amongst the poorest in the world, Malians are willing to pay for cyber services because photos and official papers obtainable through the Cybertigi can often be the only documentary evidence of their existence,” continued Wayan Vota. “With the Cybertigi program, we are aiming to develop an economically sustainable micro-business model, while at the same time demonstrating the clear benefits of ICT even in these areas.”