iBurst, one of South Africa’s largest wireless broadband providers, is planning to roll out 20 000 Internet cafes by 2010. Thami Mtshali, iBurst CEO, said that the project’s focus is primarily community upliftment, but it also aims to increase awareness and education regarding Internet use in disadvantaged communities.

“We have a number of Internet Cafes in Soweto that are experiencing real demand. The reality is that Internet use in previously disadvantaged areas is low because PC penetration in these areas is low,” Mtshali said.

“However, once a PC is made available the demand for Internet starts growing rapidly. Internet Cafes are an ideal means of removing the hardware barrier to entry for these residents,” he continued.

The rollout will start in Soweto, after which the focus will shift to other previously disadvantaged areas in metropolitan areas. More affluent areas will also be targeted in the roll-outs. iBurst have partnered with the independent ISP Tradepage for this project, and it will operate on what iBurst calls ‘a preferred partnership model’.

While the pricing model has not been finalized yet, Mtshali said that the price will be cheaper than existing alternatives in the targeted areas. The planned size for these Internet cafes are between 10 and 30 computers per cafe, with 4 to 6 computers sharing a connection.