SMS for transparency

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SMS for transparency

June 20 th.


SMS is an abbreviation for Short Message Service. The SMS as popularly referred is a text messaging service component of phone, Web, or a mobile communication system. The service allows for short text messages to be sent from one cell phone to another cell phone or from the Web to another cell phone. This exchange is made possible by use of standardized communications protocols to allow fixed line or mobile phone devices to receive and transmit data packets in form of messages. With increased consumption and use of mobile telephony worldwide, use of this technology has become a sine qua non in almost daily transactions.

Kenya has one of the most promising and robust mobile communication industries in East Africa. For instance, the mobile sector is expanding rapidly and has become a house-hold necessity; the phone costs have reduced and maintenance is also cheap. SMS rates have significantly become more affordable and one can now send an SMS to and within a mobile communication network with low as Ksh 1 while the call rates are slightly higher. This therefore would explain the popularity of the SMS and thanks to the Mobile companies (Safaricom, Airtel, YU, Orange, and Telkom) citizens can now subscribe to even cheaper packages to allow for bulk messaging and constant chatting.

This innovation has not only revolutionized business transactions but has also presented a paradigm shift from the traditional systems of working to a logical and necessary progression towards application and information sharing. Consequently, this has expanded use of SMS along the initiatives of good governance, access to information, democracy and anti-corruption. As a result, expanded use of mobile telephony in Kenya has enabled exchange of views and citizens pressing for accountability on certain topical issues e.g. leadership and integrity via the power of the sms.Radio, TV and other programmes do receive feedback through their short codes or mobile numbers provided. Anti-corruption agencies: the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and TI-Kenya (just to mention but a few) have adopted SMS platforms to receive reports on bribery incidences. This has been effected as the SMS can circumvent geographical, financial, social and cultural barriers to voice transparency concerns at the same time offering interaction alternatives.

Just as a caution to those who may embrace the SMS solution blindly; amid the embracement of mobile telephony and SMS integration by majority of Kenyans` issues such as illiteracy and infrastructure bottlenecks in some areas present an uneven and rocky environment worthy pondering. Subsequently, full and effective utilization of SMS for transparency remains a key issue. To tackle this requires concerted efforts of institutions aiming at using sms for transparency to address this information gap and or segment their audiences before use of the sms solution.“These efforts enjoined with increased public participation ultimately leads to transparency.”

By: Jacob Orina (Chief Information Scientist)

The writer works with Transparency and Accountability Habitat through Information and Communication (Tachicom-Kenya) and his views expressed herein are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the Habitat.



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