Up to 1000 smartphones were on Thursday, February 13 given to citizens of Rutsiro District through Connect Rwanda campaign which was launched in December 2019.
The campaign aims at providing smartphones to 2.6 million families in the country.
The smartphones, which come with sim cards and three-month internet data, were distributed to 1000 households.
The beneficiaries were selected by local leaders based on criteria that included poverty level.
The ceremony was graced by senior government officials including Minister Paula Ingabire of ICT and Innovation, Alphonse Munyantwari, Governor of the Western Province as well as representatives from government and private institutions.
In her remarks, Minister Ingabire commended all individuals and institutions that have so far contributed to the cause derived from the Rwandan custom of giving back and asked the beneficiaries to return the favour.
“Here in Rutsiro, you have many economic activities that this technology can boost, including agriculture, mining and fishing. If well used, these smartphones can boost development in this district,” Ingabire said.
The minister described the smartphones as gifts and told beneficiaries to give back using the devices to communicate issues and concerns affecting the community, especially pointing out illegal mining activities.
On behalf of other beneficiaries, Jean Damascène Sebitoki said; “there has never been a gesture like this in Rwanda. Now I’ll sit home, tap my phone to order fertilizers and grow potatoes, all thanks to President Paul Kagame and other donors.”
Mark Nshimiyimana, after receiving a Mara smartphone, said it will impact how he carries out his farming life.
“I will be learning from what other people are doing across the country. Also, we will not be wasting any more time to go to local offices because we will be using Irembo services online.”
Beyond phones and free internet, beneficiaries will continue to be given basic training on how to use a smartphone.
To address the issue of affording connectivity, the ICT minister said plans are underway to put Wi-Fi internet in public places such as health centres and schools.
Some residents, however, raised the lack of electricity as an obstacle that might hamper use of smartphones.
Essence of connecting Rwandans
Located in northwestern Rwanda, Rutsiro was identified as a district with the lowest smartphone penetration, a reason that prompted the first distribution to take place in the mountainous district.
There are 84,654 families of which only 8,866 (10 percent) have smartphones.
Since the campaign was launched, over 43,000 smartphones have been pledged which from now on, will be equally distributed in every district. After Rutsiro, the next batch will go to Ngororero and Burera.
Connect Rwanda is an ongoing campaign and officials have been urged to keep pledging to raise the number to atleast a million smartphones which would make a remarkable increment in smartphone penetration in the digital agenda of turning Rwanda into a knowledge-based economy.