JOHANNESBURG – Rwanda has launched a campaign to collect one million smartphones and increase access to the devices.
Connect Rwanda aims to increase the country’s smartphone penetration, which is currently below 20 percent, according to officials.
Statistics from the ministry of information and communication technology (ICT) and innovation show that out of the 10 million Rwandans with mobile phones, only around 1.6 million own smartphones.
"The Connect Rwanda campaign is aimed at increasing smartphone ownership in the country. To date, phone penetration stands at 79.8 percent, but smartphone penetration is still low at 14.6 percent," Rwanda’s ICT and innovation minister Paula Ingabire, told Anadolu Agency.
Ingabire said smartphones were critical to help Rwandans gain access to online services and information.
"Today, Rwanda has digitised several services, and many businesses are going e-commerce. Smartphones thus remain a necessary tool to enable citizens to traverse the digital value chain," she said.
The agency reported that nearly 40,000 smartphones have so far been pledged under the campaign, which was launched at the end of December and will run until March.
Rwandan president Paul Kagame is among those who have responded to the call with a pledge of 1,500 made-in-Rwanda smartphones.
“Smartphones should not be a luxury item. Let’s challenge ourselves to make smartphones an everyday tool enabling all Rwandans to fulfil their potential,” Kagame said in a recent tweet.
The ICT and Innovation ministry is running the campaign in partnership with local telecom company MTN Rwanda, which has pledged free SIM cards, one gigabyte of free data per month for three months and up to 50% discount on data bundles during the first 12 months, according to Anadolu.
"Everyone is welcome to pledge. Pledges can come in the form of smartphones any number or cash," Ingabire said.
According to the ministry, the distribution of the first batch of collected smartphones will take place at the end of January.
The intended beneficiaries were Rwandans who were not connected with smartphones yet, including families without any smartphones and those with feature phones.
Others to be considered were those who were unconnected but who could afford to pay for data, as well as people living with disabilities and volunteer social workers.
"Beyond the three-month campaign, a broader strategy is being designed aimed at ensuring affordability of smartphones," said Ingabire.
The Rwandan government has set a goal of achieving digital literacy for all youths aged 16 to 30 by 2024 because of the important role of technology in development, said Anadolu.
– African News Agency (ANA)