Government to launch Amazon-style text message alert system for public services

The Government plans to launch a text message alert service similar to those used by Amazon and other online retailers that will alert people about public services.

The initiative is designed to save almost £600 million by cutting down on the use of call centres, face-to-face meetings and other public-facing government operations.

The automated system, called Notify, is based on those used by internet retailers to update shoppers about deliveries, and will see members of the public receiving a text message, email or letter when an MOT is up for renewal, or when student finance applications are being processed.

Other likely uses are for updates on claims for Universal Credit, the Government’s new welfare system; and voter registration applications. Texts can be automatically triggered at certain points, such as when an application has arrived in the post.

Government IT staff have been trialling the technology internally, and will bring it into “beta” mode in February, when several public services are due to begin using it.

Departments will be able to sign up as they wish, uploading their databases of contact details into the Notify system. By moving their own systems for contacting people into the central government service, departments are expected to cut IT costs, as well as reducing communications expenses.

The Government Digital Service is forecast to save £1.3 billion over the current parliament. A Cabinet Office spokesman said that around £600 million is in digital communications, with the Notify programme accounting for most of that.

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