On November 15, 2021, the Ministry of ICT and Innovation (MINICT) together with other partners distributed smartphones in seven districts under the Connect Rwanda initiative. The districts include Gicumbi which received 1,065 smartphones, Bugesera which received 566, Gatsibo got 602, Nyabihu 469, Ngororero which received 420, Gisagara which got 516 and Huye where 506 smartphones were distributed. The brands of the distributed smartphones include Mara phone, MTN Rio Phone, Samsung, Huawei and Tecno. According to MINICT, between November 15 and December 3, they will be distributing one smartphone to at least one household per village amounting to 16,250 gadgets across all thirty districts in the country. During the handover ceremony in Bugesera District, Paula Ingabire, Minister of ICT and Innovation, highlighted that smartphones play a key role in Covid-19 response in Rwanda; providing easy access to information of the pandemic, dissemination of directives and Covid-19 guidelines, among others. She said, “We will continue with Connect Rwanda phase two, through which we will work with different players in the ICT sector, financing institutions and other device retailers and distributors to introduce sustainable financing models that will facilitate more citizens to acquire smartphones.” Mitwa Ng’ambi, Chief Executive Officer of MTN Rwanda, one of the partners in the exercise, said that the initiative keeps bringing them a step closer to achieving their ambitious goal of closing the digital divide in Rwanda. “We are happy to see more pledges coming in, which goes to show that what started out as an idea has now grown into a movement,” she said. Distributed smartphones. Since inception, Connect Rwanda programme has majorly focused on different segments of the population; the unconnected, female farmers, persons with disabilities, individuals in category 1 and 2 of Ubudehe, among others. #ConnectRwanda phase 1 was launched in December, 2019 to create awareness across the country regarding the importance of smartphone ownership. The initiative curated a pledge programme that saw a national multi-industry participation where over 44,000 smartphones were pledged and 24,973 were honoured. Out of these, 7,670 have been distributed to date. Speaking in Cyumba Sector, Gicumbi District where 1,065 smartphones were distributed, Jean Marie Vianney Gatabazi, the Minister of Local Government, said that the smartphones will help people access information about agriculture, livestock, market, weather, as well as studies for students – among other uses. He said that the recipients are equipped with basic digital skills to utilize the smart phones and benefit from digital services, adding that they are planning to deploy more trainers to teach recipients on how to make the most of the smartphones. According to Gatabazi, the campaign was hindered by covid-19 where people and businesses who had pledged to donate phones were affected, adding that since things are going back to normal, they are starting to provide. He said that they want all elected village leaders to have smartphones that will help them to give information on time, revealing that they are evaluating those who don’t have them yet so that they can soon start to distribute. To distribute smartphones, he said that they have started with families in remote areas who don’t have any smartphones, adding that they will continue to provide to other households as the devices are made available. Epimaque Mwebaze, a resident of Rubaya Sector, Gicumbi District who received a smartphone, said that he is going to use it to provide trusted information about where he lives, adding that he will share information with neighbors as well as people in different corners of the country, exchanging information on how they are developing. Gaudence Mukamana, a resident in Bukure Sector, Gicumbi District, said that the smartphone will help her son in researching schoolworks and as a tailor, it will help her show her clients different designs which will make her work easier. “Instead of describing designs in words, I will show them photos,” she said. People who want to contribute to #ConnectRwanda can do so by making a pledge on https://new.connectrwanda.rw/.