How Twitter makes it easy to Tweet using SMS technology

TwitterIf you have believed in the story that SMS was dead, then you must think again! Because the micro-blogging site, Twitter is leveraging on SMS or text messaging to enable mobile subscribers who have no Twitter accounts or Internet access to Tweet and to follow Twitter accounts.

In other words, Twitter has developed a technology that enables you to Tweet using text messages and you don’t even need to have a smartphone nor a Twitter handle! Twitter simply converts your Tweet into text messages!

You do so by following someone on Twitter, and you receive updates from the account that you follow, Twitter says.

And one man has leveraged this technology to drive a communication revolution in his community.

Chief Francis Kiriuki, a local leader and representative of the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta in the county of Nakuru, in an area called Nane a community of about 29,000 citizens is an avid user of Twitter.

But in a community where majority of the residents don’t have smartphones, he is Tweeting to them as they follow him and they are able to send important messages across to people who need it most through him.

“We have through this technology managed to bring down crime rates in our communities,” he told in an exclusive interview at the sidelines of the Regional Conference on the use of Mobile Technology in collecting Data for Statistical Processes, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Chief Kiriuki said, he has through the technology helped to empower his community and to improve health outcomes and economic activities. Through the technology he has been able to mobilise his community for chicken pox immunizations.

“If someone has cattle or chickens to sell. They simply send me the message on Twitter and then I broadcast it to my followers most of whom would get it in the form of SMS and within a short period, the livestock are sold,” he said.

How does it work?

Twitter provides some mobile telecoms service providers around the world with network specific short or long codes. A user with or without a smartphone and who might not even have a Twitter account nor Internet would simply send a message to the code; for example the person sends this message ‘follow Chief Kiriuki’ to Safaricom’s code, 8988 in Kenya and the person immediately follows Chief Kiriuki.

All the people following Chief Kiriuki, receive every Tweet from him in the form of a text message and they are able to send him messages on Twitter by text.

According to Chief, the platform has been used to locate missing children and mentally ill people who have gone missing.

Criminals also use it, he said.

“There was a time when some thieves who were following me were trying to steal a transformer in a community. While about it, someone sent a message to me and I broadcast it. The thieves saw the message, and then they jumped from the height, nearly breaking their legs, and they fled,” he said.

Chief Kiriuki says he has also used the platform to help jobs seekers to find jobs by simply Tweeting the job ad in a newspaper and telling his followers to follow up.

Countries on the service

There are currently more than 110 countries of the world where the service is available. In Ghana only two of the six mobile service providers are on the platform – MTN and Tigo are on the platform and the two providers use the same code; 40404.

In Nigeria there two providers on the system, they are Glo Mobile with the code 20644 and Visafone which has the code 40404.

The list of countries and the mobile providers with their codes are listed on this Twitter Help Centre page.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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