My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: How OUR can fund FLOW Jamaica Emergency operator service using Stay Alert App, Mobile Money and Advertising

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

How OUR can fund FLOW Jamaica Emergency operator service using Stay Alert App, Mobile Money and Advertising

“[FLOW Jamaica is] currently providing this service for all other public telecoms service providers at a loss. In other words, we have been subsidising the service with no additional funding”

FLOW Jamaica comments on their desire to cease being the host of the centralised emergency operator service

Calling 110, 112, 119 and 911 may be soon run by Public or Private Sector Interests. And it may come with a side serving of advertising!

This as FLOW Jamaica has declared their intention to the OUR (Office of Utilities Regulation) to stop acting as the host of the centralised emergency operator service as reported in the article “Flow Wants To Drop Emergency Operator Service”, published Sunday September 18, 2016 by Tameka Gordon, The Jamaica Gleaner.

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For those of you who don't own a Telephone Director and hardly make calls anyway:

1.      110 - Emergency Contact for Police
2.      112 - Emergency Contact for Police
3.      115 - Repair Services
4.      116 - Hurricane Update
5.      117 - Time and Date
6.      119 - Direct Contact to the Police
7.      811 - King Fish
8.      911 - Fire or Ambulance Services

These Services, hosted by FLOW Jamaica, are free of charge. All calls to these emergency numbers, be if from a Digicel or FLOW Fixed Line or Mobile number, are handle by FLOW Jamaica. FLOW Jamaica want this to change, as being the Nation’s Call Center for Emergencies makes no revenue for them, with 110, 112 and 119 going straight to the Police.

The OUR (Office of Utilities Regulation) agrees, as stated on their Website, quote: “It has, therefore, become necessary to conduct an overall review of emergency service access arrangements in Jamaica and to propose technically, economically, and operationally feasible alternative means of accommodating the end-to-end process of call initiation, handling, and forwarding to emergency services providers for timely and successful dispatch of emergency assistance”.

FLOW Jamaica has informed the OUR that it will no longer host a centralised emergency operator service through its network. Instead, it wants all telecoms providers to offer the service to their own subscribers.

So who will handle these calls if FLOW Jamaica were to cease providing these essential services?

FLOW Jamaica and the centralised emergency operator - Upset with the OUR since 2014

FLOW Jamaica, since 2014, has been advocating that each Telecom Provider should provide these services to their customers, as per the revised Telecommunications Act of 2012. The specific section of the Act requires Telecom Providers provide emergency operator service for the purposes of making calls to numbers in the National Numbering Plan i.e. Calling 110, 112, 119 and 911, ect.

This as they do not make money from providing the service; it's partially subsidized by the State via the USF, but as it makes no money for them as it's a loss making burden.

110 and 119 short codes have been in Jamaica for the past 45 years ago, with 112 and 911 being introduced to replace 110 in 2011. When calls are received by the centralised emergency operator service, the operator routes the call to the appropriate emergency service based on Geographic locations to quote the OUR: “...from the information obtained from speaking directly with the caller - and thereby endeavouring to ascertain the caller's precise location - is able to forward the call to the correct emergency service provider at the nearest geographic location to the caller”.

Albeit it hasn't been announced, but what this all means is that at some point, these services may soon be handled by a Call Center, most likely paid through the USF (Universal Service Fund), the current arrangement with FLOW Jamaica. To quote the OUR: “...based on an understanding that it will be funded from the Universal Service Fund until alternative arrangements are put in place by the responsible ministry”.

So how would such a Call Center Make money from providing emergency operator service?

Funding the emergency operator service Call Center - USF and Advertising on smartphones is Possible

One way, aside from the USF subsidy, would be via running the emergency operator service Call Center in such a way that it reduces its overall expenditure. This thinking has become necessary, as the problem of running an emergency operator service Call Center is being faced by FLOW Jamaica is universal to all Telecom Providers around the world.

Such a Call Center, most likely partially owned by the Ministry of National Security and a Private Sector contractor, could run on Solar Power, reducing its need to use JPS Co (Jamaica Public Service Company) Electricity. Cooling could be done via natural evaporation techniques and the building designed to reduce heat wastage, keeping it cool enough for the Servers to work.

But monetization of some sort would be necessary.

A VoIP App on smartphone enables so as to be used without a Data Plan might also be an option. This facility would be provided in the same way that the Telecom Providers already make 110, 119 and 112 work on any phone without the need for a SIM Card or credit on the phone.

Currently, websites for Government Ministries can be accessed without a Data Plan or Credit on the phone as noted in my blog article entitled “How Unlimited access to Government of Jamaica Websites heralds Electronic Transactions and Mobile Money”. 

So why not emergency operator service Call Center accessed via a VoIP App that's free to use without a Data Plan or Credit on the phone? After all, it’s to be used for Emergency purposes.

The idea is that the Ministry of National Security would partner with this Private Sector contractor to run the emergency operator service Call Center. Then they’d update their Stay Alert App as described in my blog article entitled “Why Ministry of National Security's Stay Alert App is Prankster's Summer Toy of 2016” to handle all calls and IM to the emergency operator service, not just those from the Jamaican Police.

Then to make money, the App would be designed to serve Ads for Government Agencies, Ministries as well as select Private Sector Companies on the homescreen as well as within the App itself.

Additionally, voice calls, texts and IM (Instant Messages) through the Stay Alert App would have ads inserted before each call, allowing them to be monetized. The Voice call would have voice ads and the Texts and IM would have short text or picture ads with a link to the Government or Company website.

These participating Government and Private Sector advertisers would be billed for advertising on the Stay Alert App, being as users of the App would technically be a captive audience. It would allow the Stay Alert App to make money not only for the Ministry of National Security, but also the Call Center.

Once the number of Jamaicans that have the Stay Alert App reaches critical mass, the revenue from advertising via the Stay Alert App will become significant. This revenue, plus the subvention from the USF, could fund the emergency operator service Call Center.

Until then, Anything is Possible!

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