Foreign Office launches text service

text messaging

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has launched an emergency SMS text service for UK citizens travelling in foreign countries.

The trial service was launched yesterday with network provider Vodafone and a number of other mobile providers to deliver FCO emergency text messages to their subscribers in the event of an emergency, such as a natural disaster or civil unrest.

Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne said the 12-month pilot is part of the Foreign Office's commitment to improve consular services.

"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," Browne said.

The text alerts will be sent any British Nationals that are registered on the FCO crisis database. And the service is available free to any UK customer of the participating mobile and network operators.

The service does not replace any existing government foreign alert services. And information provided in the texts will continue to be provided on the FCO website, and the FCO Travel Facebook and Twitter channels.

But Browne said the text service was part of the FCO's vision to also deliver consular services more cost-effectively and so he hoped it could be extended to other service providers in future.

"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," he added.

In addition to Vodafone UK, the mobile providers taking part in the trial include Asda Mobile, Lebara Mobile, Talkmobile, Talk Talk, BT Mobile, Gamma Telecom and Cognatel and their mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs).

Miya Knights

A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.

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