When you cannot bring the Internet to the people, bring the people to the Internet.
Yahoo Vietnam’s Yahoo! powered Internet Cafes are opening around Vietnam’s Hanoi and Ho Chi Mihn City in an effort to bring Internet to people and effectively brand Yahoo services. The Yahoo Internet cafes are sponsored by Yahoo and exclusively offer Yahoo services such as Yahoo Search & Yahoo! Questions and Answers (Yahoo Answers for Vietnam).
This is a smart and highly respected move by the Yahoo company to further expand their brand to a growing population of Internet users, by setting up storefront cafes in cities.
Sponsoring Internet cafes or Lan Houses can be a solid move in emerging Internet markets and is a bit different and more realistic than the $100 Laptop Movement which Google is sponsoring.
Cafes can pop up in poorer neighborhoods where broadband access is unheard of and representatives of the search engines can educate users with tips on how to search, check email and avoid phishing and scams, while developing a strong relationship with these new users.
If government and tax funded school systems can let search companies influence the way they teach our children to research information, why can’t they make the same effort outside of the scholastic sphere? Yahoo Vietnam is doing just that.
Nacho Hernandez is a strong advocate for search sponsored Internet Cafes and composed a Google Cafe Proposal last year outlining his thoughts on the subject. I highly suggest reading through his presentation.
The first search engine I ever used was Yahoo (a directory at the time) and I still associate it today as a starting place to the web (with the Google toolbar and Firefox search boxes in my back pocket). Strong branding goes a long way.