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Foreign Office trials emergency text service

Sade Laja Published 12 August 2011

Foreign Office trials emergency text service

Text service will provide people with 'essential advice' in the event of a crisis

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has teamed up with network provider Vodafone to trial a free text messaging service for British citizens who are in other countries when there is a major crisis, such as a natural disaster or civil unrest.

Customers of Vodafone, as well as customers of any mobile provider whose service runs on the network, are able to receive messages.

The FCO already offers a similar travel service to citizens through its website, but it requires people to register their details and opt in. A spokesman for the department told GGC that the difference with this service is that it is automatic and that people in a country where there is an emergency will receive messages regardless of whether they have opted in.

The pilot will run for 12 months and will not replace any existing services. Information provided in the texts will continue to go on the FCO website as well as its Facebook and Twitter travel channels.

Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne said that the recent consular crises in Libya and Japan have demonstrated the need to deliver live travel safety messages to as many people as quickly as possible.

"This new service is part of our vision to deliver better consular services more cost effectively and we're delighted to be working with Vodafone UK and a number of partners on the pilot. We hope in the future we will be able to roll out this service with other mobile network operators and mobile providers," he said.

"The pilot is part of the Foreign Office's commitment to improve consular services. We will soon have the ability to send text messages to all affected British nationals registered on our crisis database. As well as this we're also exploring delivering important information through a range of mobile and online tools, including smartphone apps, a travel advice site for mobile phones and making effective use of social media and digital tools."

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