REACH112 is a project of implementation of an innovative telecoms solution based on the European standard of Total Conversation. This implementation is designed to make telephony accessible to all those people who have difficulty with voice phones. This is at least 3.5 million people across the EU. REACH was set up in five countries with over 7,500 registered users. In REACH112 users are able to call each other (in video, voice and text mode), reach voice phone users through relay services and make calls directly and through relay to emergency service centres. The service has been developed on all platforms: videophones, textphones, PC, Mac, notebooks, tablets and smartphones, as well as simple web browser plug-ins.
Evaluating a project such as REACH112 is a complex operation requiring multiple methodologies and interaction with all 20 partners in six countries. The extent of the work has been considerable covering actions to recruit and train users throughout the value chain (to the specification of the Description of Work), to deliver appropriate telecoms technology (for registration, communication, tracking and monitoring) and evaluation of users engagement against the targets set and of the performance of the system. This analysis of progress collates extended data and offers evaluation of the programme as a whole. It is required to integrate the progress across all previous deliverables and to offer a way forward for future development in Europe.
The project can be examined in respect of the objectives originally set in the Description of Work but it also has to be considered in social terms, as it constitutes such an extensive set of goals with a diverse population in variable economic circumstances.
Data supplied by partners has been analysed and is presented country by country but also as an integrated application of a new telecoms infrastructure.
In terms of the global objectives for access as set in the original contract, the project can be seen to have achieved these – users can call each other, can reach relay services and can have access to emergency services. In terms of the study of process in implementing a new form of telecommunication and maintaining it in a marginalised community, the project has learned a great deal.
Analysis of usage of the project service required examination of almost one million consumer data records, for Total Conversation calls. Almost 125,000 relay calls were made and analysed. Cost analysis was carried out in the context of a project worth over 8 million euros.
Targets set for traffic volumes in person to person, person to relay and person to emergency services have been shown to be over-optimistic in some countries but are under-estimates in other areas. The difficulty of predicting such an intervention two years in advance of its realisation is apparent. It is also clear that different national pilots have worked in different ways experiencing different problems. The results tell us clearly that such an initiative has to be embedded both in the aspirations of the community and in the social policies of that region or country.
We have collected data of self-analysis by partners, relating to the policy changes in each country, data from individual interviews, from structured user trials and from focus groups of all users – Deaf, hard of hearing, relay agents and emergency service call takers. We have also collected and analysed case studies. Data collected from users says clearly that the developments are welcomed, life-changing and liberating. There is very little question in the minds of Deaf end users that these services are required. Other users such as relay agents and emergency service call takers have been positive about the developments and have embraced the training needed in order to provide the service.
A cost benefit analysis was carried out although there are some difficulties in both identifying the precise costs and measuring the benefits quantitatively. On the basis of this analysis, it can be seen that the costs of running such a service per person and per month, are not inordinately high and within the usual costs of mobile phone contracts. As more users join, the per-person cost reduces although there is less effect in the provision of relay service.
Taken as a whole the project has been met with great enthusiasm. It has overcome major obstacles. It has evolved with the technological environment and has produced solutions which enthuse and encourage the inclusion of this group of people who have hitherto been set aside from the telecoms revolution.
The programme evaluation is the basis for the exploitation of the concept across Europe and points in the direction of next generation telephony services and explicitly, next generation emergency service provision.
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|Published - 9 Dec 2012