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Thu, 18th Jun 2015
FYI, this story is more than a year old

A new emergency 111 smartphone application is being developed in a joint venture between the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and the New Zealand Police.

Communications Minister Amy Adams announced the plans of the development, in response to more calls being made from mobile phones.

Each year, there are more than 1.3 million genuine calls to 111 emergency services. In 2014, 73% of all calls to 111 were made from a mobile phone, according to Adams.

“Mobile phone calls to 111 will be quicker and safer in future with the development of a new app,” Adams says.

“Creating this new app will allow Emergency Services to better respond to New Zealanders in need of urgent help,” she says.

Adams says the 111 app will automatically provide caller location information to emergency services. “This will help save lives and reduce damage and theft of property.

Adams expects the app to be developed by mid-2016.

The ability for Emergency Services to receive more accurate locations of callers was recommended by Coroner Ian Smith in response to the death of Jason Roach, who died in December 2010 after calling Police, who could not locate him.

“Emergency services sometimes have difficulty pinpointing the caller's exact location,” Adams explains. “People can't always give an accurate address in an emergency – they may not know exactly where they are or are somehow prevented from providing details.”

Adams says mobile callers who download the app and use it to dial 111 can also connect directly to the emergency service they require, rather than going through an initial transfer process to fire, police or ambulance.

“Emergency Services will be able to respond more quickly to these calls, plus they will have accurate information about the caller's location,” she explains.

Adams is inviting industry and software developers to respond to the RFP and help the Ministry and Police develop technical solutions for the new emergency response system.

“I have decided to adopt a new procurement approach under which two entities will be chosen to work with Government through a competitive proof of concept stage to show how their version of the ERS would work,” Adams says.

“This process is supported by the IT industry and is expected to allow for suppliers to be more innovative in designing a solution that meets the needs of emergency service providers.

The new app will also have the ability to distribute information to the public, based on their geographical location, such as in the wake of natural disasters. This public alert information will be available to those who choose it on an opt-in basis.

The new app will be free for users to download. The overall cost of the new emergency response system will be met through the Telecommunications Development Levy, which is paid by telecommunications service providers.

The project to develop the new system will be jointly led by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and Police, and procurement is expected to get underway by the end of the month.