Government could send text-message exam results

Charles Arthur,Technology Editor
Thursday 16 May 2002 00:00
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Children could receive their exam results in the form of text messages sent to their mobile phones next year, as part of government plans to expand "online" services.

Similar systems are being considered for benefits claimants, to tell them when their money is being paid, and to inform people of the progress of their passport applications.

The plans were revealed by Alan Mather, of the Office of the e-Envoy, who said that the necessary security could be in place within a year. He also added that banks could join in, using software developed and tested by the Government.

"There are organisations that want to issue notification of important things through SMS text messages, such as exam results or benefits information," he said. "This can be done in a 12-month timeframe. And if we get this up and running there's no reason why the banks couldn't do the same – we could extend the model to any commercial provider."

The BBC announced a service last month by which children taking GCSEs could sign up for a text-message service that would send sample questions and answers to their phone. "Text messaging is one of the most popular methods of communication for people in the GCSE age group," said Malini Suri, editor of BBCi Schools.

Mr Mather said in an interview with Computing magazine that he was already talking to handset manufacturers because the services would have to be available on every phone; otherwise a single company would gain an unfair advantage.

However, a stumbling block could be that the proposed services would not work on "pay-as-you-go" phones, because they can be bought by anyone without further checks.

At the moment some government services can be accessed via PCs with a password sent through the post.

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