President Kagame made the pledge during FPR Inkotanyi 14th General Meeting that was held at FPR headquarters on Saturday, December 21st, 2019.
The meeting focused on the milestones FPR Inkotanyi has achieved over the past 25 years after the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.
Paula Ingabire, Minister of ICT and Innovation announced the launch of the "Connect Rwanda" challenge to enhance digital inclusion by providing smartphones to disadvantaged families.
The challenge was brought about after talks between the Ministry of ICT and Innovation and telecommunication companies with the aim of easing access to technology.
"You have all seen it last time when we launched Mara Phones plant that we are not about just manufacturing phones but allowing Rwandans to access to technology at affordable prices."
She said that not all Rwandans can afford to purchase a Mara Phone and internet since some citizens don’t even earn Rwf 500 per day.
Mara Phones manufactures two types of mobile phones namely, Mara X and Mara Z and both use dual SIM cards. Mara Z costs Rwf 175, 750 while Mara X costs Rwf 120, 250.
Minister Ingabire said that for some citizens, it is even hard to afford Rwf 500 per month for internet.
"For all the services that are offered in the country through technology, we need to provide easier access to all citizens."
In a bid to enhance digital inclusion, MTN Rwanda started ’Connect Rwanda’ challenge. Different institutions in Rwanda followed the trend and pledged a number of smartphones to be given out.
"MTN Rwanda launched the 3-month challenge and urged institutions and individuals to contribute to a connected world by giving out smartphones. Through this exercise, we aspire for the 2,880,000 households we currently have in Rwanda to at least have one phone each. That will allow them to be acquainted with services provided across the country and ease the access."
Minister Ingabire said that President Kagame did not only request for citizens to possess smartphones but also to be trained on their usage and importance.
President Kagame pledged a thousand and five hundred smartphones as part of the challenge.
"I first counted the number of smartphones that my salary could buy but found out it was just a few but because this is a good cause, I pledged 1500 smartphones."
He said that as he discussed with Minister Ingabire, she promised that the ministry she leads would provide close to a 1000 smartphones as well.
"The challenge is not compulsory to all institutions but it is open to those who can afford to offer smartphones. We are seeking for inclusion even for disadvantaged families who could have otherwise saved to afford a smartphone for close to 10 years."
At around midnight on Saturday, December 21st, President Kagame tweeted on his account that he will provide 1500 smartphones as part of ’Connect Rwanda’ challenge.
"I am happy to support the Connect Rwanda challenge with a pledge of 1500 Made-in-Rwanda Mara Phones. Smartphones should not be a luxury item. Let’s challenge ourselves to make smartphones an everyday tool enabling all Rwandans to fulfill their potential."
Statistics from Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) show that so far, 9,527,829 Rwandans own a smartphone.
However, this number only considers the number of active SIM cards, which means one smartphone owner could be using 2 or 3 SIM cards. This means that the real number of smartphones in the country might be around 5 million using 9 million SIM cards.
Among the 9 million registered phones, MTN Rwanda owns the biggest share with 5,245,426 mobile phones while Airtel owns 4,282,403.
RURA report also shows that 52.1% of Rwandans use the internet from 7.9% in 2010.
I am happy to support the #ConnectRwanda challenge with a pledge of 1500 Made-in-Rwanda @MaraPhones. Smartphones should not be a luxury item. Let's challenge ourselves to make smartphones an everyday tool enabling all Rwandans to fulfill their potential.
— Paul Kagame (@PaulKagame) December 21, 2019