Wellington City joins rush to text messaging

New project scopes text alerts for staff and customers

Wellingtonians could soon be interacting with their council in textspeak if a scoping exercise now underway delivers.

Wellington City Council is studying text messaging as a channel for staff and customers, potentially joining a flood of organisations implementing text for customer service.

The council's Knowledge Solutions unit is investigating an automated text gateway to allow council business units to use bulk text message for text alerts and messages.

“The result of the project will be primarily to make text messaging more accessible to the council staff, thereby increasing staff engagement and enhancing the customer service aspect of the council,” a scoping document says.

“A secondary result will be to create a financially viable channel for customer engagement.”

Recently Computerworld reported the Electoral Enrolment Centre is rolling out an SMS interface so text messages can be substituted for reminder letters to voters who have not enrolled or who have queries.

While in February, Reseller News reported New Zealand Police was also scoping the technology for public contact.

“With the proliferation of mobile technologies and high uptake of SMS usage throughout New Zealand, Police wish to explore the feasibility of making SMS, and other multimedia technologies such as PXT, available for the public to contact Police in emergency and non-emergency situations,” the Police scoping document said.

Wellington City Council says it takes a service-oriented architecture approach to its development and is looking for a texting component with the ability to plug into this architecture. The council has internal development capabilities, it says, and maintains its own applications and packages that could also interface into the text gateway.

It says a web service approach is the preferred option and a dedicated connection or secure internet connection is required.

Other mandatory requirements include failure notification on non-delivery of text messages and the logging of all sent and received messages for auditing and reporting purposes.

Optional requirements include the ability to enable message prioritisation, to support time-of-day management business rules and to allow bulk texting, for example of council sports field closures.

The ability to bill via charge-back accounting to the internal council business units is also desirable.

Other commercial users of text messaging include the Makuna music website. Makuna's SMS feature allows users to ask for the information they want, when they want it.

Users can text a music genre, neighbourhood, day of the week or venue name, or any combination of the four, to Mukuna and the system sends back a text message with a list of the relevant gigs, founder Jeff Root told Computerworld in December.

One barrier to broader use of text messaging for business has, however, been the high cost of wholesale SMS services in New Zealand.

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