Browsing centres cater to needs of those looking to take printouts

The fast spread of home computers with high-speed broadband connection and mobile internet access has not sounded death-knell for browsing kiosks in the city.

On the contrary, the kiosks are now used for specific tasks such as meeting children and grandchildren through Skype and photocopying documents. Internet centres have managed to stay relevant, albeit with decreased footfalls.

“Small tasks such as scanning, printing, compact disc writing, and memory card reading cannot always be done at home because of the need for specific devices such as a scanner, printer, or memory card reader in personal computers. So people continue to visit our centre for these tasks,” says Esther, who works at Masmedia Internet Centre.

Besides browsing, the added facilities such as photocopier, typing service, printers, and scanners help the centres in attracting visitors.

Cost-effective

“Moreover, it is cost-effective for those who only browse occasionally. They don’t need a full-time internet connection,” she says.

In recent years, many regulations had been put in place to discourage misuse of the kiosks. It was mandatory for the centres to maintain a register of users with their personal information. But not all centres do it.

“We keep a register, but we can’t enforce it always since customers find it cumbersome and are usually unwilling to provide personal information,” says an internet centre owner, who wishes to remain anonymous.

Some centres even insist on the production of a proof of identity and anonymous browsing is not encouraged. Kiosks with multiple units generate passwords for users, who are regular customers, and strangers are not allowed to use the facility.

Not everyone can afford a computer or an internet connection at home. Many are not comfortable with mobile internet. For them, browsing centres are a boon.

“Internet on mobile is available, but I’m not really comfortable using it. I prefer a normal computer for my browsing needs.

Since I do not have one at home, I prefer to visit a centre,” says Swathi, who is pursuing her M. Phil. She finds the centres useful to browse educational websites and take printouts of required study material instantly, at affordable rates.

People can browse the internet at privately-run centres by paying a nominal amount of Rs. 10 an hour.

The speed ranges between moderate and high, based on the servers, say owners.

The pattern of usage varies between weekdays and Sunday. There are more users on weekdays and Sundays who witness a reduced level of patronage. “The speed on mobile internet is not great, unless one is willing to spend at least Rs. 250 a month on an average. This, coupled with recharge amount for talk time, makes it a costly option for students. It is better to use browsing centres when required,” says Balamurugan, a postgraduate degree student.

“I visit the nearest browsing centre once a week for my browsing needs,” he adds.

Not only students but people cutting across all age groups visit browsing centres. “We have office goers, the elderly, and others visiting us,” says K. Sivarajan, who works at an internet cafe.

“Many students visit my browsing centre when they want to download and print educational material. They find it useful when they prepare for competitive examinations.

This is mainly because not many people have a computer at home,” says Arokyasamy, proprietor, Double A Enterprises, on Convent Road.

He believes that the browsing centres will continue and expects that this trend is not likely to change soon.