SA Internet cafes among world's best

Cape Town and Nelspruit do not have much in common, one would think, but internet junkies can rest assured that both cities offer them excellent means to access the net.

Nelspruit's Alpha Internet Café and Cape Town's Café Erte have been shortlisted among the world's best places to surf the internet in the most recent Yahoo! Mail Internet Café Awards.

This year, net surfers and travellers submitted more than 1 000 nominations from 111 countries.

Among the 2004 winners are a San Francisco laundromat-internet cafeé combination and an establishment overlooking the Kremlin in Moscow.

James Bilefield, MD of Communications Products Yahoo! Europe, said: "The internet café concept is as fresh and relevant today as it was 10 years ago ... Many internet cafés also provide an essential service for the local community, and in the developing world, [they are] a place where people can learn from the internet and communicate with others around the globe."

The Mother City's Café Erte -- the stage name of French nouveau artist Romain de Turtoff -- was shortlisted as one of the most unusual places to surf the net because of its "strong trance-music roots and all-round positive feel", with "a wonderfully eclectic mix of ethnic vibes and modern technology", according to a Yahoo! press release.

Café Erte also has a cocktail bar.

Hennie Henze, owner of Café Erte, told the Mail & Guardian Online: "I was a bit surprised and impressed that we were nominated."

He has no plans yet to spruce up the café following the listing, but hopes his service will be enhanced by future competitors taking on Telkom.

"We have been here for the past 10 years. We are quite established, people like it, I'm not going to change it. But I hope the internet will be more liberal ... with more competitition, prices will go down."

The Alpha Internet Café in Nelspruit's Riverside Mall was entered in the life-saver category after a person on work placement in the Kruger National Park urgently needed to contact his tutors in Ireland and was impressed by the café's "hospitality and friendliness".

According to Alpha owner Richard Rossouw about 50% of his clients are foreign tourists.

"We put a lot of emphasis on client service," he told the M&G Online. "We like to see the customer happy."

Although he is struggling with bandwidth, he is soon upgrading his facility by installing ADSL.

The 2004 awards were announced to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the opening of the world's first internet café: Café Cyberia, located in London's West End. Cyberia's co-founder Eva Pascoe helped judge this year's awards.

Both cafés have also been included in the Yahoo! Rough Guide to the World's Best Internet Cafés, a guide that can be downloaded from the net.

This year's winners are:

Best United Kingdom internet café: Café Curve in Brighton -- food and drinks downstairs, with internet facilities at the top of a spiral staircase

Life saver: Casa del Corrigedor, Puno, Peru (located on the shores of Lake Titicaca) -- travellers used the café to assess the situation in Bolivia before crossing the border during political unrest in 2003

Most stylish internet café: The Phlegmatic Dog, Moscow -- 33 computers are built into the wall, hanging from the ceiling or built into the bar counter

Most unusual internet café: Brain Wash, San Francisco -- a combination of internet café, bar, diner and laundromat that even shows movies and hosts bands and comedians

Most remote internet café: Télé Centre Polyvalent, Timbuktu, Mali -- set up with the help of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation

Article by: Riaan Wolmarans - www.mg.co.za