KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 6 — Some 12.7 billion text messages on Covid-19 have been disseminated through short messaging service (SMS) without the government having to bear any expenditure cost since February last year, a parliamentary written reply has revealed.

Minister Datuk Seri Abd Latiff Ahmad said the initiative — which had begun on February 26, 2020 — had transmitted a total of 335 unique text messages in the form of public service announcements (PSA) on the pandemic to some 38.6 million users up to August 27.

“The telecommunication service providers do not impose a single charge for this service since the policy was part of their corporate social responsibility,” the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department on special functions said in the reply.

He gave the latest disclosure in a parliamentary reply today to Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh, who asked for the overall expenditures allocated for the system to transmit messages to mobile phone owners throughout the pandemic from March 2020 until August 2021.

She also asked for the government to state the cost, parties involved in the message content decision-making process.

A total of 13 telecommunication service providers were involved: Celcom, Digi, Maxis, UMobile, ALTEL, Webe, Tune Talk, Pavocomms, YTL, XOX, Redtone, Red One and Merchantrade.

On parties involved in determining the content of transmitted messages, Abd Latiff said it was collectively decided amongst government agencies such as the National Security Council (NSC), Health Ministry, Prime Minister’s Department, including the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission during various NSC-held meetings throughout the pandemic.

Explaining further, Abd Latiff said the text messages will be drafted in accordance with the terms of services of existing SMS (such as 160-character limit, RM0 price indicator, access to links) before their details are reviewed with the relevant ministry or government agencies for approval.

Once a message has been finalised and agreed upon by all parties, it would be sent to all telecommunication service providers to be disseminated to their customers according to a fixed date.