Since the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has been the busiest organization in the country. From identifying high-risk individuals and potential victims to running tests and administering treatment, the centre is basically at the forefront of the fight against coronavirus in the country.
One of its most recent efforts is a collaboration with telecom companies, MTN, Airtel and Glo to send NCDC sms to Nigerians.
The messages, usually with the hashtag #TakeResponsibility, are either instructing people to stay at home, how to identify symptoms, what to do in such a situation, how to help curtail the spread of Covid-19, and my personal favourite, to stop fake news.
While these messages are welcome and quite necessary in the ongoing fight, they have nonetheless managed to irk a section of Nigerians. One area of conflict is simply the claim that it is been overdone and the messages are just too much.
“How do I block NCDC? I can’t endure another two weeks of their texts,” a Twitter user, Lolatte wrote.
Abubakar Hassan says he prefers the radio jingles to the NCDC SMS because they are just tiring.
“Honestly speaking I’m tired of receiving covid-19 update sms from NCDC. I’m fully satisfied with the radio jingles. Please if you can’t use the same medium to give me your intervention, you better leave me alone.Abubakar Hassan
Another area of discontentment which though unrelated is, however, a big deal, is that bank credit alerts would probably do a lot more good than a thousand NCDC sms messages. The rationale given for this is simple: If we can’t afford to feed, we can’t afford to stick to those rules and regulations.
“If NCDC can bomb our phone every day with SMS, getting all our account number shouldn’t be an issue just the way they got all our phone numbers,” Larryphics on twitter said.
This school of thought became even more pronounced with a recent claim that the NCDC has spent N1 Billion on these text messages. The centre has since denied spending that sum on sms, noting that MTN, Airtel and Glo rather offered those services as part of their own response to the crisis.
“The headline claiming that NCDC has spent N1 billion on SMS to Nigerians is false. While communication through SMS is a key part of our COVID-19 response strategy, this has been largely provided as in-kind support by Airtel Nigeria, MTN, and Glo.”NCDC
Despite that denial, Nigerians still insist all that money would be better spent if distributed among them.
But are these messages really becoming too intrusive? Are the telcos, on behalf of the NCDC overdoing it? Could any measure be described as too much measure in this kind of crisis?
MTN sends more messages than any other telco
Many people I spoke with think the idea behind the NCDC SMS is welcome. The messages do a lot, not just in educating people on what they need to know and do to keep themselves safe, they also remind a lot of people the kind of dangerous situation we are in in the first place. The problem for some, however, is the frequency.
Glo and Airtel users say they get a maximum of just 2 such messages per day and that is just fair enough. MTN users however seem to be getting a lot more of what they didn’t even bargain for as some say they get as little as 3 and as much as 5 sms per day.
Hajia, an MTN user says she gets as much as five NCDC sms per day and it is becoming quite unbearable for her.
“It is just too much. Right now I feel like blocking them if I can,” she tells me.
Delani, another MTN user says he gets as much as 2 or 3 NCDC sms per day and even that to him is too much.
“One is okay for me, I already know what they are saying, no need disturbing my peace with sms alerts,” he tells me.
Vivian, another MTN user says she gets as much as 5 in a day and it has become so normal, each time she gets an sms alert, she’s almost always certain ‘it is them’.
“It’s just too much,” she tells me. “Even my boyfriend doesn’t text me that much.”
Users of Airtel and Glo however say they get between one and two every day and that’s just enough. Etisalat users don’t get any at all which is understandable because Etisalat isn’t part of the telecoms triad collaborating in the NCDC text message.
I only get NCDC messages when I make transactions. Asides that, I don’t get the normal NCDC text messages everyone is talking about.Justin-Mary, Etisalat user
Can NCDC and NCC regulate messages?
Going by my little search, it seems MTN is intent on overwhelming its users with these text messages as its customers have complained the most. With as much as 3 to 5 messages a day, it is easy to see why. It is also easy to see why Airtel and Glo users, mostly receiving two per day, aren’t very bothered.
There’s also the possibility of people who use double sim cards receiving these messages via one phone. This further pronounces the need for the frequency of the sms’s to be toned down because, with two sims in one phone, many people could be getting as much as 7 a day.
Thus, is there a possibility that the NCDC, on whose behalf these messages are sent, could ask the telecom companies to set a limit across board? This also falls within the purview of the NCC, whose job it is to regulate such communications. If the messages could be reduced to just two per day, maybe just like Glo and Airtel customers, MTN customers, the largest telco customer base in Nigeria, would find it bearable.
In the event of a crisis of this magnitude, a lot of people will agree that no amount of measure could be too much measure. And in this case of organizations carrying out corporate social responsibility, the telcos are only coming from a good place. If we agree it is a good thing to begin with, then too much of a good thing can’t be bad. Or can it?
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