It seems the novel corona virus had unprecedented impact on how Kenyans contacted themselves not only in terms of social distancing, but also the way we communicated with one another. According to statistics released by Kenya’s ICT regulator – the Communications Authority, Kenyans used text messages to communicate in the three months period to June more than they used phone calls in the same period.
This could be attributed to several factors including the economic effect the pandemic had on our way of life, considering text messages are relatively cheaper than making phone calls. Consumers were keen to spend on areas that were deemed essential thereby cutting costs wherever they could. Data released by the Communications Authority (CA) indicate that more Kenyans used short text messages with a reported 19.5 percent rise to 20.09 billion compared to 16.81 billion in the three months leading to March 2020.
While text messages were favored in the period, voice traffic recorded a negative drop of 0.9 percent representing 15.2 billion minutes in the pandemic period. Coincidentally, its during the same period that most mobile service providers retired airtime discounts on their respective networks. According to the Communications Authority, voice traffic was impacted by reduced calls promotions during the same period.
Tough economic times during the same period must have drove more Kenyans to prefer texting than making calls, the pandemic period was marred with job loses, salary cuts as well as unpaid leave in some cases which in turn impacted the amount consumers were able to spend.
Mobile service providers at the time had attractive SMS bundles that supposedly also contributed to more Kenyans preferring texts rather than calls. It was also noted that SMS communication is particularly popular amongst young population who had been actively at home following prolonged closure of learning institutions.
According to the Authority, Safaricom’s SMS promotion which rewarded subscribers with mobile phones for those who were lucky in the draws played a pivotal role, giving the mobile service provider an upper hand, that dominated 95 percent of the segment. Safaricom’s SMS segment reached 19 billion text messages in the same period. Airtel Kenya followed with 901.47 million SMSs or 4.5 per cent of the market, while Telkom Kenya accounted for 83 million texts or 0.4 per cent of the market.
Calls on the other hand experienced a decline, something the regulator attributed to Safaricom and the restrictions placed to curb the spread of the virus. The pandemic affected working hours and activities with some businesses rescheduling working hours to beat the imposed curfew.
Safaricom’s voice traffic dropped by 0.9 percent to 9.1 billion minutes from 10 billion minutes in March. According to the CA the decline could be attributed to the end of Stori Ibambe (Storo Bonus) promotion which ended on 13th May 2020.