Each new interaction I have with a government platform makes me think how it could be improved upon. This time it was my experience with travel.state.gov as I used their Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to register last week’s trip to Colombia (see blog). For those of you not familiar with STEP, it’s important to let the State Department know when you’re traveling abroad in case there is an emergency where they need to get in touch with you – or get you out of there.
The form is a little cumbersome the first time you register as a traveler, but it covers all of the key points: who you are, where you’re going, why, who’s traveling with you, how long are you staying, who should be contacted in case of emergency, and how do you want to receive travel alerts. It looks something like this:
After going through this process I started my search for a mobile app that would enable me to instantly identify where the nearest embassy was, display travel alerts, and give me a way to contact them if I was in trouble. You tell me if I’m missing something, but my search came up empty.
- Add a STEP travel itinerary through a streamlined mobile form
- See nearby embassies
- Check In to them as an even simpler means of letting the embassy know you’re there
- Include what you’re doing, how long you’re staying and who you’re with
- One-touch call and email buttons to contact the embassy
- Use the phone’s GPS to send along your exact location with that communication
- View important travel alerts (pushed to the device)
- Go over safety tips for the area near you (aside: I received one saying don’t use an iPhone in public places because that identifies you as an American with money – good tip!)
- Possibly add some helpful tools like a currency converter, locations of nearby hospitals, etc.
What else am I missing? Of course I couldn’t resist whipping up a screen shot of the app to your right – just as a visual, not an exact design.
Looking forward to your always-insightful comments below!
Read Last Week’s CB2: On Location at the Colombian Floods