MITA Notifications Platform – A Bridge Over Troubled Waters
Written by Mario Mallia Milanes
The Notifications System was set up with the purpose of unifying, and simplifying, communications for the various service providers within Government to the consumers of their services, the citizen. The principal intention behind the need was to make an easy-to-use and reliable interface available to Government by which remote contact can be easily kept with citizens. Readily available communications channels such as email and SMS are used as the preferred means of communication.
One of the main inhibitors of progress to explanability is the lack of consistency and measurement metrics. Much of the literature reviewed seeks a unified approach to the research, but as the topic is in its infancy this will take time. Hopefully a time will come when a common structure for xAI models is designed and accepted. This will facilitate interoperability.
The Notifications Platform is a low latency, a reliable messaging system developed to handle various messaging protocols, message routing, and protocol conversion. The service provides connectivity between Government Applications, SMS service providers, email services and other messaging entities. It predominantly focusses on Government service providers, mobile operators and is capable of handling large volumes of transactions (SMS and email) over multiple connectors. Bulk SMS and email messaging capabilities are provided to Government Public Services through an Online User Portal as well as APIs[MMaM1] facilitating system-to-system software integration. The Notifications Platform also supports messages to a single receiver, a predefined group of receivers or a specific list of receivers over different channels (SMS, email, etc.). The system is designed around several technologies hailing from the commercial and open-source domain. By leveraging over a mix of technologies the Notifications Platform offers its users the best products available on the market.
The Platform has been created from the ground up with the end-user [MMaM1] in mind. Consequently, a seamless business-to-consumer interface is offered. This abstracts the end-user from the technological complexities necessary to connect internal services to those of mobile communication service providers.
The MITA Notifications Platform is currently processing an excess of a 1M (million) SMS and 400K (four hundred thousand) emails per month. The reliance on the platform is at an all-time high. [MMaM1] This abnormal consumption demonstrates how useful for Government this method of communication is. Additionally, this also underscores the Government’s reliance on technology to maintain communications open with citizens. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic the dependency on the platform has further increased. The demand more than trebled in the last quarter alone.
The Notifications Platform has gained prominence within the Public Service domain, slowly becoming an essential part of service notification. Due to the prevailing situation, Government entities are resting even more on electronic, instantaneous, communications to keep regular contact with the citizen. Thus, foregoing the need to stop or reduce service in order to observe health directives.
Although the use of a unified messaging platform is not mandatory within Government operations, an integrated messaging system has proved beneficial to all parties involved. All systems residing within MITA’s responsibility are subject to a strict regimen of scrutiny that guarantees safety, availability, and integrity. In addition to this end-users and consumers of the service need not worry about the maintenance and upkeep of the underlying system/s. Finally, there is a cost-benefit element too. Each Government entity using the Notifications Platform can benefit from low-cost message pricing schemes made possible through a collective deal done on behalf of the Government through MITA.
No one ever expected that a pandemic would further push the Notifications Platform [MMaM1] into the forefront. Thankfully this simple and robust platform has proved itself in terms of stability and scalability even under duress. MITA is constantly looking at how such a service could be enhanced providing new communication channel options. Each new communication channel offers opportunities to reach a wider segment of the population as well as capitalising on new and emerging technology prospects. Ultimately this will add more flexibility to the platform and encourage a shift towards more electronic Government to Citizen communication reducing service time, cost and bureaucracy.
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