The Belgian government is working on a “WhatsApp-like” messaging app to communicate with citizens. These messages will be “public interest messages”. Belgium already has an emergency system with BE-Alert, but it works with SMS.
The new app allows the government to send pictures, longer texts and links to videos, says official in charge Frank Rubin against La Libre According to HLN† These are messages sent in the context of “utilities”, such as messages about health and flood risks “or crises like Ukraine”.
What the app should be called is still unknown, and there are no screenshots yet. Robin says the app could be ready in a couple of weeks and that users will receive notifications of new messages. These messages will also not contain any personal information. The cost of the application is 50,000 euros.
It’s not clear if the new app will co-exist or replace BE-Alert. BE-Alert works with SMS, which means governments can send messages with a maximum of 140 characters. This system can also be costly “if you know that there are 19.6 billion transactions between health care providers among all citizens”.
Robin is responsible for several government projects in Belgium, such as the e-health platform for access to health data and the non-profit organization Smals, an IT services provider for the government. Robin was previously also a supervisor at the Belgian Data Protection Authority, but Resigned After criticism from the European Commission.