GSMA partners with Airtel, MTN to increase internet uptake in Rwanda

By Jean d’Amour Mugabo

Rwanda’s ICT and Innovation Minister Paula Ingabire (Centre) and mobile operators' chiefs launch We Care Initiative to drive up digital literacy and services in Rwanda
Rwanda’s ICT and Innovation Minister Paula Ingabire (Centre) and mobile operators’ chiefs launch We Care Initiative to drive up digital literacy and services in Rwanda


Rwanda’s mobile industry has joined hands with the GSMA to drive mobile internet adoption and increase digital literacy in the country through the initiative dubbed “We Care.”

MTN Rwanda and Airtel, local mobile operators, entered the partnership with GSMA on Tuesday as the three-day GSMA Mobile 360 Africa conference kicked off in Kigali.

We Care is a global initiative led by GSMA, the global mobile operators’ representative. It is the first commitment on digital inclusion in Africa. It aims to promote responsible business practices and enable Rwandans to use internet and reduce the digital divide among digital illiterate population.

The mobile telecoms and their stakeholders will also promote digital content in local languages as a platform for self-empowerment and online engagement as a driver for socioeconomic development.  They will also boost the country’s digital economy by ensuring each household that has a smart device has the skills to utilise it.

During the signing of the partnership, Rwanda’s ICT and Innovation Minister Paula Ingabire, said it is important to bring together mobile operators, Airtel and MTN, to work towards a common goal that will be beneficial to citizens.

“Smartphones are important ICT tools that can be used to access key digital services: education and information, healthcare and financial services,” she said.

“Increasing digital inclusion in Rwanda will therefore go a long way in empowering our citizens and we are looking forward to a sustainable collaboration.”

According to GSMA Intelligence, about one in four citizens in Rwanda currently subscribe to mobile internet services. The lack of digital skills among the population and a perceived lack of locally relevant content are among the key barriers to large-scale adoption.

Airtel, MTN welcome the deal

After launching the initiative, Rwanda’s mobile operators pledged a fruitful collaboration with the government and other stakeholders for the benefits of the citizens.

“We are committed to ensuring that our customers can get the most out of  their service; so we are always supportive of efforts to promote digital literacy, affordability and accessibility,” said Amit Chawla, Airtel Rwanda CEO.

MTN Rwanda’s CEO, Bart Hofker, said MTN was pleased to partner with GSMA to enhance digital literacy in Rwanda.

“MTN is also pursuing other efforts to tackle the full range of barriers to digital inclusion, including handset affordability with our recent 3G smartphone,” he said.

Akinwale Goodluck, Head of GSMA in Sub-Saharan Africa, said the collaborative action by Rwanda’s mobile industry will harness the power of mobile internet to empower citizens and deliver on the promise of a digital Rwanda.

As part of the We Care initiative, Airtel Rwanda and MTN Rwanda will use the GSMA’s Mobile Internet Skills Training Toolkit (MISTT) to train sales agents and educate customers on how to access mobile internet services.

The telecoms will train 10,000 sales agents in techniques to teach their combined customer base functional digital skills within the first year of the campaign while the MISTT modules will be adapted to reflect local needs.

MISTT is a visual easy-to-follow curriculum that helps trainers to 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.

Statistics from Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority show that six million Rwandans, representing about half of the population, were using internet in the first quarter of 2019.

We Care was launched in Latin America in 2014 and is now running 25 campaigns across the region in collaboration with 55 local operators. In Africa, the initiative has been present in Kenya and Côte d’Ivoire.

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