Government seeking to create communication system through mobile phone apps

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications is to study the possibility of creating a mobile phone messaging system to communicate with citizens through apps. Currently, the state mostly communicates by email or through the state portal.

As no other countries communicate with their citizens in this way, a public procurement has been launched to analyze the risks of communicating with citizens by mobile phone or through apps such as Facebook or What's App.

The state wants to develop this service to speed up communication between the public and authorities. The government could also send both personal and mass notifications faster than it currently can. For example, it could notify a person when their ID card is expiring and needs to be renewed as well as about mass events.

Ott Velsberg, head of Data Systems at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, said: "Sending mass notifications has always been an issue - let's take elections, for example, there has always been a need to report election information. In light of the coronaravirus crisis, it could certainly have been used in the same way."

He said many people turn to the state with similar simple questions, such as about passport renewal, which could be answered by an automated "chatbot". More complex requests could still be directed to an official.

Sending messages to mobile phones would also solve the problem of emails not being seen or sent to an inbox which the owner does not regularly check. It would also be harder to ignore.

"A large proportion of citizens do not always react. Even if they are informed, it is still not done and is left to the last minute," said Velsberg.

As no other government currently interacts with its citizens in this way, the Ministry has initiated a public procurement to analyze the possible security risks of using alternative channels.

Velsberg explained: "We want a clear picture of how this could be done technically. For example, the security side, data protection - how secure data transmission would take place. Different alternative channels have different security requirements. Where they are encrypted, where they are not, etc. The messages on Facebook themselves are encrypted, but in our opinion, they may not be enough. That is what we want to answer now." 

He hopes that next year every citizen will be able to choose whether they want to receive notifications from the state via e-mail, SMS or, for example, by Facebook Messenger.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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