The Communications Authority (CA) has raised concerns over disruption of Safaricom's mobile money transfer platform, M-Pesa, following outage that the firm blames on maintenance delay that led to slow database.
Hours after the Information, Communications and Technology Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru directed CA to carry out an investigation and issue a report following the Saturday outage, the telecommunication firm issued a statement explaining what happened.
The mobile money service provider said the outage was caused by a slow database response, which in result led to a reduction in the number of transactions.
That consequently led to the queuing of incoming transactions and a delay in responses to customers, the firm said.
The firm said its engineers are working with officials from Central Bank of Kenya and CA to ensure continuity of services.
“We sincerely apologise to our customers and partners for the inconveniences it has caused. We reiterate our commitment to uphold a high level of operational excellence in all our products and services and assure our customers that their funds remain secure all the time,” said Safaricom in the statement.
The Saturday outage began at 7:04pm and the services were restored at 10:53pm.
Safaricom said the issue recurred at 7.19am on Sunday morning “but was quickly resolved within 34 minutes.”
“Our engineers are working with officials from both the CBK and the CA to ensure continuity of services,” the giant telecoms firm said.
CA Board chairman Ngene Gituku, in a separate statement, said that the authority was in talks with the CBK to ensure that ICT firms operating mobile money services “have in place adequate redundancy measures to guarantee 100 per cent service uptime.”
Mr Gituku said Safaricom informed CA that the outage was caused by a "scheduled systems maintenance that took longer than anticipated."
With Kenyans relying heavily on the mobile money transfer technology, network downtimes are increasingly having devastating effects on financial transactions with significant ramifications on the entire economy.
So critical is the place of M-Pesa in Kenyans’ lives, and the economy, that in 2016, Treasury, for the first time, warned in its annual report about the devastating effects that a collapse of the mobile service will have on the economy.
The Treasury’s 2016 report said that a technology disaster affecting the M-Pesa dominated mobile transactions is now a fiscal risk, placing the money transfer systems in the ranks of potential threats to the economy that are watched keenly by policy wonks.
Significantly, the economy transacted a staggering Sh3.7 trillion via mobile phones in the period between April 2017 and March 2018 alone.
Within that period, CBK data shows, mobile payments accounts hit 39.34 million a year, while service agents increased to 196,002 from 157,855.