The number of text messages sent in Kenya dropped 37.2 per cent last year on reduced promotional messages and growing popularity of online instant messaging applications.
Economic survey data shows domestic short messages fell sharply from 68.1 billion text messages in 2020 to 42.7 billion messages last year.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) says the decline was linked to a drop in promotional messages and popular online instant messaging options like WhatsApp.
The increased preference for messaging platforms like WhatsApp, Telegram, and Facebook Messenger is fast pushing the once-popular SMS into obsolescence as consumers turn to the cheap yet more user-friendly and convenient options.
The decline in promotional messages also coincided with the enactment of a data protection law and the appointment of Kenya’s first data commissioner Immaculate Kassait at the end of 2020.
Data protection rules came into force to restrict the State and companies handling personal information and prevent its use for marketing and research.
“The total domestic SMS sent declined by 37.2 per cent to 42.8 billion in 2021 compared to an increase of 4.3 per cent registered in 2020. The decline was partly attributed to the few promotional messages offered by the service providers and the ever-growing usage of instant message applications in the review period,” KNBS said.
Kenya ranks third among countries that receive the most spam messages averaging 102 per month according to data from Truecaller, the Stockholm-based caller identification app.
Payment on some merchants’ tills via M-Pesa mobile money has led to abuse of contact details including sending unsolicited text messages notifications from businesses marketing services and products or third parties selling the data to advertisers.
However, data protection laws has made it difficult for companies to flood mobile phone users with promotional messages.
Companies like Safaricom #ticker:SCOM have also put in place measures blocking customer contact details whenever they make payments at merchant tills to stop third parties from exploiting personal data.
This is expected to further cull promotional messages sent out by marketers which will have an impact on telcos revenues that are witnessing a shift by users away from short messaging services (SMSs).
The shift to the new online platforms has been both a burden and blessing to telecommunication firms. While they feel the heat from their underperforming text revenue streams, the platforms are helping drive the use of their mobile and fibre internet services.
Texts contributions to telcos as a share of the total revenues has been falling for the past three years while mobile and fixed data contribution has been on the rise.
CA data shows that SMS contributed 18 percent of total mobile service revenues in 2018 that stood at Sh264.4 billion, behind data (fixed and mobile) at 20 percent and voice that accounted for 39 percent.
In 2019, SMS’ contributions to the telcos’ revenue basket dropped to 7.1 percent while the share of mobile and fixed data rose to 21.9 percent. Telecommunication firms made Sh276.6 billion from mobile services.