New 111 smartphone app to be developed

  • Amy Adams

Mobile phone calls to 111 will be quicker and safer in future with the development of a new app, Communications Minister Amy Adams has announced.

“Creating this new app will allow Emergency Services to better respond to New Zealanders in need of urgent help. The app, to be developed by mid-2016, will automatically provide caller location information to emergency services. This will help save lives and reduce damage and theft of property,” says Ms Adams.

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

“Emergency services sometimes have difficulty pinpointing the caller’s exact location. 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,” says Ms Adams.

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.

“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,” says Ms Adams.

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

“Industry and software developers are being invited to respond to the RFP and help us 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.

“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,” Ms Adams says.

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.

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