GDS reveals that uptake of messaging platform shot up during pandemic
The number of public sector services using the GOV.UK Notify messaging platform has more than quadrupled during the past three years with a surge of uptake fuelled by government’s Covid response.
New figures published by the Government Digital Service reveal that, at the start of 2020, Notify was used by 1,540 different services provided by 463 organisations across the public sector.
After the country went into its first lockdown in March, adoption of the tool – which allows public sector entities to send text messages, emails, and letters – increased rapidly; by the end of 2020, a total of 919 public bodies were using the platform to send messages related to 3,715.
Growth has begun to level out since then, but the number of users has continued to grow strongly, reaching its current total of 7,343 services split across 1,488 organisations. This equates to a nearly twofold increase in services in the past two years.
In a newly published update Notify’s lead product manager Irina Pencheva said that GDS has updated its strategy for the messaging platform with the aim of “helping us to prioritise and support choices about our focus”.
The updated plan is built around three main goals, the first of which is “scaling our operations to match our growth”, which includes work to migrate Notify away from GDS’s Platform as a Service public sector hosting facility – which is being closed down.
This will include enabling users to complete tasks that previously required hands-on support from GDS, such as changing settings concerning authentication methods or whether to enable inbound SMS messages. Public bodies can now also include their own branding for letters and emails, and additional information has been included in product guidelines.
“We’ve already completed a lot of this work and are starting to see a reduction in support tickets,” Pencheva wrote.
The product strategy’s second core goal is “maintaining a great service and improving our features to retain existing users”.
This objective will be supported by providing “more flexibility and features when sending emails and letters with Notify [including] things like better support for our Welsh users, additional formatting and components, sending out emails from outside of the gov.uk domain”.
GDS has also improved how data is reported to users, as well as making an effort to ensure it is “providing the most competitive price to offer SMS notifications that meet our stringent technical, performance and security requirements”.
“We never make any profit from sending messages, and we spend a lot of effort and time in getting the best deal from the mobile telecommunications market,” the product manager added. “Getting this right is as important as ever in the context of growing wholesale prices for text messages.”
The third strategic objective is to continue to improve the Notify product so as to continue to attract new users.
Pencheva wrote: “Whilst we’ll continue to support our steady organic growth, we also want to extend Notify’s reach to services whose needs Notify does not currently meet. In particular – and in line with GDS’s wider strategy – we want to meet the needs of high-volume central government teams and those users with low or no access to digital, data and Technology capabilities. As part of this mission we might do mini-discoveries and explorations into new functionality like integrations with other channels, more complex two-way communication, as well as integrations with other GDS products, such as GOV.UK Forms. We may find there is little or limited value in some of these improvements. If so, we will stop and focus on something else.”