This is a guest post from the GDS mobile team:
The GDS mobile team made a trip to Chiswick last week to OpenMarket, providers of our SMS delivery platform and shortcode number, to find out a bit more about how we could be making better use of SMS technology.
Whilst you might assume that the role of SMS in the digital world is dwindling, it’s important to remember that only 74% of adults have access to broadband at home, compared to 91% of adults who have a mobile phone. In the UK, 129 billion text messages were sent last year, that’s risen by 2000% over the past decade. You can read the full report on the Ofcom website.
Directgov has already been using SMS for several years to supplement campaigns on mobile, but we’re really only scratching the surface of what this tool can achieve.
So far we’ve largely been using what we call ‘auto-responses’, which means users text a keyword, i.e. TRAVEL to 83377, and we then send them a link to the Directgov mobile travel tool. They send us a message, we send one back - pretty straightforward.
For last year's 'Health in Pregnancy Grant' campaign, we took it to the next level. Users text a keyword and their due date to subscribe to a reminder in the 28th week of their pregnancy, when it’s time to apply for their grant. Take up for this campaign was very encouraging, racking up over 10,000 subscriptions in the first 7 months.
The potential for these reminder services is pretty big. It’s easy to think of a number of uses for simple reminder services such as self-assessment deadlines, car tax, etc. The delivery platform can also integrate with 3rd party back-end systems to supplement an existing service. So for example, it could send out reminder messages for jobseeker interviews and hospital appointments.
Other uses include:
- Bulk messaging - to distribute information to segmented groups. e.g. the system can send out instant reminders to all subscribed users with information about flood warnings, Jobcentre closures, Foreign Office travel advice, etc.
- Decision tree style ‘dialogues’ - question and answer style messages to deliver specific, relevant answers based on a customer’s individual circumstances.
- e-petitions, polls, surveys and quizzes
- location based services to find your nearest facilities. NHS Choices already offer a service to find your nearest health facilities, i.e. text PHARMACY to 64746 to receive a list of pharmacies based on your current location.
So we think SMS could have an important role to play in bridging the digital divide - a stepping stone to help bring traditionally non-digital people into the digital world using a device that they already know and trust.
This week GDS helped launch the Tech City app to coincide with David Cameron’s speech in East London. Read more about that in Alice’s post.
We’re also looking forward to getting involved in the single domain project very shortly - we’ve seen phenomenal growth on the Directgov mobile site recently (now receiving over 1.7 million visits per month) so mobile is clearly going to be a key part of our offer to the citizen, now and in the future.