Four state and local governments will be able to notify residents of application deadlines, fraud reduction tips, critical service updates and other notices via text messaging in a new partnership with the General Services Administration.
GSA on Thursday announced the partnerships, which use Notify.gov, a text messaging service that helps all levels of government communicate with residents. The new partnerships include the states of Wisconsin and Washington, the City of Norfolk, Virginia, and Montgomery County, Maryland.
The service is still in a beta testing phase. It allows participating governments to control text message content without any technical knowledge or systems integration required. Notify.gov also has a feature allowing users to track the quantity of messages sent and discover which aren’t being delivered.
The program is operated through the GSA’s Technology Transformation Services’ Public Benefits Studio.
“[State and local governments] share our vision to simplify the public’s experience with public benefits programs,” Amy Ashida, director of the Public Benefits Studio, said in a press release. “Through these partnerships, we’ll be able to test and confirm the potential impact of Notify.gov. Our mission is to make it easier for agencies to reach people who participate in their programs and increase access to the benefits and resources they are eligible for.”
Officials said Notify.gov builds on pilot programs led by other government agencies, including the the U.S. Veterans Affairs’ VANotify program and the United Kingdom’s GOV.UK Notify program. According to the press release, such programs generated 20-50% increases in “case maintenance and cross-program enrollment” when programs used texts, emails and phone calls on top of regular mail.
GSA boasts of the service’s quick and easy usage, stating that users can send individually customized text messages “in as little as 10 minutes.”
“The barriers to texting most often cited by benefits agencies include the high operational cost of obtaining the service, limited in-house technical capacity, and uncertainty regarding what constitutes legal consent,” the press release states. “The Studio reduces these barriers by providing an easy-to-use service paired with expert guidance along the way.”
The studio will continue to work with the pilot’s partners to “refine the tool and user experience,” the release states.