The mass text message sent to all UK mobile phone numbers on 24 March had to be sent by mobile operators as the government never finished setting up its own official text alert system. EE, Three, O2 and Vodafone and their subsidiaries had to handle the sending of the message (above) as government plans first published in 2013 were never implemented.
It’s an embarrassing situation for the government to be in. In the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic, other governments worldwide have been using their alert systems to text potentially lifesaving information to people in real-time. Without this at their disposal, it is possible that the UK population is missing out on timely information.
The Guardian said “the British state is reliant on traditional media outlets and social media sites to communicate indirectly about isolation measures”, an unfortunately accurate and damning summation of the ignorance of not completing a text alert system after trialling one.
Labour peer Tony Harris has long campaigned for the system to be implemented. Harris told the “It’s fallen between government departments as to who is going to pick up the bill, who’s going to lead on it, and all sorts of issues,” implying that a fight over budgets and responsibility has led to the UK not having this incredibly important system in place for a time of crisis.
Texting everyone in the country is a demonstrably more effective way to get a message to a nation, rather than relying on people tuning into one-time only news bulletins or Prime Ministerial broadcasts.
Thankfully the NHS has a text system it has recently used to message those people in the UK who are more susceptible to the coronavirus with the recommendation to stay inside for 12 weeks.