Safaricom vs Twitter: The Mystery of Twitter’s SMS Service

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You have probably come across Sunday Nation’s story, “Suspension of service hurting tweeting chief” that highlights Chief Francis Kariuki’s story of how he uses Twitter for community policing, also highlighted by Techweez.

As per the stories, the tweeting chief has been using Twitter’s SMS service to send out broadcasts to his community in the event of an emergency or any other message that requires action. The SMS service has been active since March 2010 and was available on both Safaricom and Airtel through SMS numbers 8988 and 40404 respectively. According to the tweeting chief, the SMS service was a tool he used to improve security in his community, something that he says has become harder to do since the service went hiatus.

Word on the streets has it that Safaricom abruptly pulled the plug on the service and no outward communication has been issued over the same. The assumption is, according to Techweez, the service usage has reduced over the years due to many factors, top of the list being that smartphone penetration has grown over the years.

However, we sort to get a response from Safaricom, at least to understand their side of the story. According to Safaricom’s response, the free Twitter SMS service was a collaboration between Twitter and the telco, and Twitter was not charged for this. The contract between the two came to an end sometime in May this year and that’s when Safaricom pulled a plug on the service and demanded that Twitter pay for bulk SMS like every other customer if they want to continue offering the service.

Information with us is that Twitter hasn’t yet paid for the said service, neither have they shown any interest to do so. It is also not clear what happened to Airtel’s equivalent of Twitter SMS, we reached out to the telco for a response but at the time of press, we were yet to receive said response.

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