Short Message Service of SMS text is the most widely used mobile phone service throughout the world. In Kenya, with an estimated mobile phone user base of about 20 million, mobile phone use has achieved one of the highest growth rates in this part of the world. Given that about 50% of the Kenyan population is under the age of 15, it means that mobile phones are in the hands of at least 2 out of every 3 adults. And this proportion is only likely to get higher with the increased penetration of mobile phone services to even the remotest parts of the country and the continual lowering of user tariffs in price wars that ultimately pass on lower usage prices to phone users. As can be seen on the two coverage maps on the next two pages, the two largest mobile phone operators – Safaricom and Zain - who between them control 18.3 million of the 20 million mobile phone subscribers have by now covered over 85% of the Kenyan population and whose mobile signal covers 34% of the Kenyan land mass.
SMS usage has also grown exponentially and with the ever increasing cohort of younger and more sophisticated mobile phone users, this reliance on SMS as a major form of communications is only likely to expand even more. SMS as a means of communication is convenient, secure, targeted and very highly personalized. An SMS text message, by its very nature is precise, concise and increasingly cheaper mode of communication. Use of SMS text to collect data and disseminate information is thus the next level of multimedia communications.