When last did you visit a cyber cafe?

“Hi Jide,

How far Bro,

I’m online. Are you there?

I came online hoping you’ll be here so we can discuss the Abuja trip. Anyway, I will come online tomorrow at 4:00pm. Abeg let’s chat. You see, I just wasted N100/One hour ticket for this Cafe now.”

That was a typical message in the days of Cyber Cafes, long before the internet got into everyone’s homes and hands.

But how time flies. In those days, going to a cyber cafe simply meant you wanted to go ONLINE. Very few had access to the Internet except those who had dial-up, VSAT or those working in big corporations.

Few channels existed too: Yahoo! was the king, Hotmail was balling. Yahoo messenger chat room was the coolest place to be for young people. All you needed start a chat with a new contact was “ASL” (don’t ask me what I did there please).

The proliferation of ISPs, and eventual deregulation of the telecoms sector changed everything for good.

With the emergence of multiple chat platforms, powered by better insight and technology, many have since forgotten their login details on yahoo and live messengers. The language of those platforms may have been forgotten too (But wait, why didn’t we bother about name while asking the ASL thing?). BBM was first to break the jinx, giving us instant reply and multimedia opportunity with real-time discussions. Not the “go-come” we experienced on Yahoo! And them came Whatsapp, weChat, Messenger, and many more. Did I mention Badoo, Hi-5 and co? Yes millions are using dating and social media sites to stay in touch with old contacts and make new friends through the direct messaging features.

For those who play games, the cyber cafe was a heaven of sorts. They had their own corner. Cafe owners were the almighty, they decided if they will allow you play or when depending on their mood or business perspectives. Today, games are ubiquitous for parents and kids on mobile devices. Very few people (including me) don’t have games on their mobile device. Cyber Cafe owners and the “almighty lords” attitude have since been thrown into the trash bin.

For the uninitiated in most neighborhoods like Festac Town where I stayed in the late 90s hearing that you are going to Cyber Cafe for overnight browsing attracted some suspicion. “Yahoo-Yahoo, Yahoo+” ? They didn’t know people could go out there to read or carry out Research. They didn’t even know that someone like Linda Ikeji and few other bloggers were emerging. Little did they know of future of jobs and things that were coming.

Today, you can do a lot of legitimate transactions online; from Forex Transactions to Crypto and many other things with your device in your own corner, anywhere. Little did they know of the future of jobs back then. How many people even see the future of jobs ten years from today too? According to the WEF 2016 Report on future of jobs, about 60% of Jobs a 10 year old kid of today will do in 15 years does not exist today.

Interestingly, people don’t go online anymore because everyone is always online, a lot of people live, play, work and make a living online. All you need is Internet enabled mobile device and the WORLD is (potentially) yours to conquer.

With a device in your hand, you are who you want to be. You are a citizen Journalist, activist, you are a trader, you can solve a lot of problems including banking transactions that may take days to solve from anywhere. You can reach anyone from anywhere.

Government and Brands had no reasons to ignore the Internet in the days dominated by Internet Cafe but they are still paying the price of that nonchalance. In the day of the Cyber cafe, instead of driving innovation and powering a new industry, government more than clamped down on internet activities. They could identify where certain information (the good, the bad and the ugly) is emanating from via the IP address, send security agents after them and shut it down. Cafe owners became police of sort with several layers of security on their system. Many genuine users were harassed, arrested, embarrassed, and intimidated.

But nobody can stop a moving train. Or how do you explain the burst between 2009 and 2014 when the internet usage increased by an annual 14.1% to reach almost 2 billion from a little over 900m users across the world? The numbers continue to look up, more people from urban to rural dwellers are coming into the fold. Nobody is going through the cyber cafe as the entry point again. The landscape has changed forever. In many serious nations, access to the Internet is now being recognized as a fundamental human right

The increasing internet penetration has forced government and brands to change their engagement stance from Top-Down to Two-Way communication which allows for engagement and feedback. They have since realised that leaving the space for people and consumer to take the lead has as much advantage as disadvantages, depending on approach.

The Internet has become a phenomenon nobody can stop or predict the next thing it can cause. It has changed government without a barrel of gun. Persona-non-grata now have a voice in the same land they have been declared so. Fugitives speak to the world from wherever they may be.

Brands are not left out, a simple post by a dissatisfied consumer has caused huge reputation damage with significant impact on the share price or sack of an entire Board of a Directors of a large corporation. Examples are abound. From Airlines to FMCG. Just a simple tweet, a harmless Facebook post, etc has kept businesses on their toes.

Power has come to the rightful owners -the people and the consumers. No longer in the hands of few Internet (Cyber) Cafe operators and their ISPs who had all the powers to stop you from doing anything you wish to do or achieve. It is now in your. hands. How well do you use it?

Okay, Let’s chat guys…

Me: Buzz!!!

Me: ASL!

Zeee: who is this?

Zeee: What does that mean?

Me: ASL? -Age, Sex, Location!!🏽

When last did you visit a cyber cafe?🚶🏽🚶🏽

Moruff Adenekan @nekanmoff is with BHM -a Strategic PR and Communications firm operating from Lagos, Nigeria.

Official Medium page for BHM, a global media and public relations agency operating from Lagos, Nigeria. Since Nov 7, 2006. We put people before profit.