Mobile network operators, MTN Rwanda and Airtel Rwanda, have entered partnership to launch “We Care”, a new initiative aimed at driving the fast uptake and adoption of internet in Rwanda.
The initiative was launched on Tuesday at the GSMA Mobile 360 Africa, a conference bringing together stakeholders from the telecommunication and technology industries from across Africa and elsewhere.
We Care is a global initiative led by GSM Association – a trade body that represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide.
The two telecom operators will leverage the initiative to promote digital inclusion in the country, and it is the first commitment on digital inclusion in Africa under the GSMA’s ‘We Care’ programme.
According to their charter, they will ‘collaborate’ with key stakeholders in Rwanda to promote responsible business practices and ‘enable’ Rwandans to use the internet and reduce the digital divide amongst other digital illiterate population.
They will also ‘promote’ digital content in local languages as a platform for self-empowerment and online engagement as a driver for socioeconomic development, as well as ‘support’ the Government’s effort to boost the country’s digital economy by ensuring each household that has a smart device has the skills to utilise it.
Paula Ingabire, Rwanda’s ICT and Innovation Minister, said it was exciting to see the industry responding to some of the digital agendas the Government was outlining.
“As a Government we have set out to find ways of quickly transforming and leading our economy into a knowledge-based led economy. This is done through making sure that there is internet for all, driving digital literacy for our citizens and making sure there is affordability of handsets and that of the internet,” she said at the launch.
Ingabire added that it was, therefore, important that collaborations between the private sector and public sector are happening to respond to the gaps the country have and to drive internet adoption.
“The Government of Rwanda will support it to make sure we create a transformative impact for the people of Rwanda and a model that can be replicated across the continent,” she said.
According to GSMA Intelligence, only about one in four citizens in Rwanda currently subscribe to mobile internet services, and a lack of digital skills among the population and a perceived lack of locally relevant content are among the key barriers to large-scale adoption.
MTN Rwanda and Airtel Rwanda will leverage GSMA’s Mobile Internet Skills Training Toolkit (MISTT) to train a combined 10,000 sales agents and educate customers on how to access mobile internet services.
MISTT is a visual easy-to-follow curriculum that helps trainers demonstrate the functionality and value of the internet on internet-enabled mobile phones. It includes modules on Wikipedia, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and Google, as well as introductory modules on basics such as internet safety and costs.
“I genuinely feel the barrier today is more of skills rather than the availability of resources and that’s where we need to bridge the gap and get the confidence of the consumers to be feeling like being on internet platform is safe and cost effective,” Amit Chawla, Airtel Rwanda CEO said.
On the other hand, MTN Rwanda’s Chief Executive Officer, Bart Hofker highlighted that the two telecommunication firms had common ground, which is to make sure that broadband access penetration and usage flourishes.
“That is our objective and this is because we believe digital transformation is all about digital inclusiveness. There is nothing else other than making sure that consumers are able to use 3G and understand how they can benefit from it,” he noted.
Hofker had earlier told the participants at the conference that there was a need to address issues of affordability, network coverage, availability of handsets, services as well as education if people were to fully get digitally empowered.
According to statistics from Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA), the total number of people using the internet in Rwanda stood at 6 million as at the first quarter of 2019.