Government explores mobile emergency alert system for major incidents

Written by Sam Trendall on 3 January 2018 in News

Supplier sought to kick off project by engaging with the big four mobile network operators

The government is examining the possibility of working with the UK’s four major mobile network operators to send out emergency incident alerts to citizens’ phones.

The Civil Contingencies Secretariat, which is part of the Cabinet Office, has published an opportunity on the government’s Digital Marketplace seeking a supplier that can offer “expertise to provide additional insight into options for a mobile emergency alerting scheme to citizens”.

The government wishes to explore implementing a system in which government messages could be supplied to EE, Three, Vodafone, and O2. The companies would then send these messages on to all customers on their network in a certain defined geographical area.

The messages would likely be instigated and composed by the police, the government said, and would relate to “non-specific major incidents that start with little or no notice”. 

“It is intended that citizens receiving the message will act in a way to reduce overall harm and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the response to the incident,” the government added. “We are conscious that the message will be potentially received on all customer phones.”

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The system is intended to run on an “opt-out” principle, whereby users are automatically sent messages unless they specifically request otherwise.

The project is still in “discovery” phase, the completion of which will require the chosen supplier to successfully pass through two stages. The first of these stages will require the supplier to call on its own market experience and expertise to make a presentation to government on the potential merits and challenges of a mobile-alert system. If the government decides at this point that it wishes to proceed, the supplier will then be tasked with engaging with mobile network operators and other market representatives to put together a final report on how such a scheme could be rolled out.

The closing date for applications from potential providers is Tuesday 16 January, and the government expects to spend a fixed amount not exceeding £100,000 on this initial exploratory work.

A total of five potential suppliers are expected to be evaluated.

“Looking forward, this work could form part of a significant programme,” the government said. “This work package is to be completed during the early part of spring 2018.”


About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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