About 14,000 smartphones are set to be distributed next month under the Connect Rwanda Challenge following the ease of Covid-19, which slowed down the exercise, the Minister of ICT and Innovation has confirmed. Under the Connect Rwanda Challenge campaign, which was launched in 2019, people and institutions are mobilised to contribute to providing smartphones to Rwandans who cannot afford them. In an interview with The New Times Paula Ingabire, the Minister of ICT and Innovation, revealed that they will resume the mass distribution exercise on Nov 15. “Due to Covid-19, we were not able to do distribution the way we wanted to but we are resuming this November,” she said, adding that distribution has been on a small scale. It will resume with observing Covid-19 guidelines. So far 7,670 smartphones have been distributed to vulnerable people across the country with the most recent ones, 3,000 gadgets, going to women farmers, which Ingabire says will go a long way in closing the mobile phone gender gap in the agricultural sector. Women constitute nearly 60 per cent of Rwanda’s workforce in agriculture It is imperative that technology does not leave anyone behind,” she said. She added that smartphones are crucial for rural women farmers especially to enhance access and sharing of information. “On average, a farmer promoter has access to around 4,000 farmers. With these new smartphones, the beneficiaries will be able to easily access agriculture information and disseminate it to the farmers in their catchment area,” Ingabire said With smartphones, information such as weather-related information, market information and improved farming methods will be at the tip of the farmers’ fingers. “The more information farmers have, the more they will be able to make better choices and decisions,” she added More than 30,000 smartphones have so far been pledged. Ingabire said that the primary aim is to connect the unconnected, starting with “one smartphone per household”. “The purpose of Connect Rwanda phase 1, was to sensitize citizens on the smartphone while mobilizing the public to provide an initial pool of smartphones that would be provided to households across the country,” she said Under the second phase, households and individuals will be assisted to buy and own smart devices. “Connect Rwanda 2 aims at addressing smartphone affordability barriers by launching device financing options that enable households and individuals to buy and own a smart device, starting with smartphones, without having to make a full upfront payment for the devices,” she noted. The government is working with telecom companies, retailers and financing institutions to design bundled services and flexible financing schemes.