Natalia Merzlyakova - Fotolia Notify notifications system starts to be used for live digital services

Status updates system is latest part of the government-as-a-platform strategy from the Government Digital Service

People applying online for UK passports or for lasting power of attorney are the first to receive electronic progress updates from the Notify system.

Notify has been developed by the Government Digital Service (GDS) as part of its government-as-a-platform (GaaP) strategy to build common application components that can be reused across Whitehall.

The service aims to send notifications and reminders to users – such as text messages or emails – to inform them about the status of transactions or applications, potentially avoiding the need to telephone call centres to check for updates.

Currently, each individual system uses its own methods to send status messages – or none at all. Over time, GDS hopes that Notify will become the standard for all digital public services.

Under GDS’s agile development process, Notify has now attained “public beta” status, which means it can be used with the public for selected live services under controlled conditions. In January 2016, GDS said it expected Notify to reach this stage by early March.

As well as passports and power of attorney, the service is expected to be launched next for student loans, voter registration, UK visas and the Digital Marketplace. The Cabinet Office expects as many as 70 other services to follow soon after.

“Whether you are a parent applying for a passport, a student checking your finances or a business owner seeking to work on government contracts – we want to make it as easy as possible for you,” said the newly appointed Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer.

“In Notify, we have developed an impressive, cost-saving product that can be used across any government department for lots of different services – making it easier for the public to interact with government and keep track of their applications and requests.”

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Notify is one of the first services to be launched as part of the GaaP programme – others include Pay as a common payments service and Verify for identity assurance.

GaaP is one of the cornerstones of GDS’s £450m budget to develop digital services. According to the Cabinet Office, Notify will save money because email is free and text messages can be sent for less than 2p, while phoning a government call centre can cost up to £12.

“Applying for a lasting power of attorney can be a considerably anxious time. It might seem a small thing, but a text message to let you know ‘your application has arrived, and we are looking at it’, can give real reassurance. We know this from the calls that come into our contact centre daily,” said Jane Fallon, head of digital at the Office of the Public Guardian, which is responsible for the power of attorney service.

“It’s an incredibly useful and powerful product for us. It’s early days, and we need to monitor how this goes and keep iterating to make sure we continue meeting the needs of our users.”

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