Local Telco, MTN Rwanda has confirmed that over 2,500 smartphones have so far been collected under the Connect Rwanda Challenge. The campaign initiated by MTN Rwanda, is run in partnership with the Ministry of ICT and Innovation (MINICT). So far, over 39,000 smartphones have been pledged under this campaign that was launched at the end of December 2019, and MTN Rwanda says that as of January 12, 2,500 of them had been collected. The move is expected to shore up Rwanda’s smartphone penetration, which is currently below 20 per cent. According to the ministry, among the 10 million Rwandans who are connected to mobile phones, only 1.6 million have smartphones. Read also: Connect Rwanda challenge will propel us to a digital society Claudette Irere, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of ICT and Innovation, told The New Times on Tuesday that the distribution of the pledged smartphones will kick off towards the end of this month. “We will not wait for the campaign to end before we can start distributing these smartphones,” she said, adding that; “before the end of January we want to distribute those we have collected already.” Irere also said that the collected smartphones will be distributed in all districts of the country and that districts with more acute shortage will be considered first. The drive, that will run until March this year, has a target of collecting 1 million smartphones. Who are the beneficiaries? Irere said that with the help of the Ministry of Local Government (Minaloc), through Ubudehe stratification scheme, and other stakeholders companies they were able to come up with statistics of households that do not have smartphones up to the cell level. Irere also reiterated that: “In addition to those categories, together with Minaloc, we will consider the loyalty and faithfulness of that beneficiary in his/her village so that we give the smartphones to people who will profit from them and even use them to solve some problems in their community.” Beneficiaries will also, among others, be given, by MTN, free sim cards, free 1GB per month for 3 months and up to 50% discounts on data bundles during the first 12 months. They shall also be educated on how to use and benefit from the devices. More efforts There are an estimated over 2.8 million households in the country and, according to the Ministry of ICT and Innovation, only 4 per cent of them have smart phones. Irere noted that the ministry is looking for other ways of bridging the smartphone penetration gap. “Though it’s a very good initiative, statistically, the gap is still big. This is why the ministry is looking for other long-term solutions,” she said. Among the long-term solutions that are still in the pipeline include talking to financial institutions and businesses to give out smartphones on loans, which citizens will be paying back in small installments, she said. However, Irere emphasised that the target is not to ensure smartphone penetration only but also to make sure that those who own them benefit from them.