National

Osaka to launch smartphone app providing disaster info for foreign tourists ahead of Expo

Kyodo

A government bureau in Osaka is set to launch a service next year to that will allow foreign tourists to access disaster information via smartphones, ahead of the 2025 World Expo in the city.

The initiative, expected to formally start next summer, is aimed at ensuring safe and enjoyable stays for foreign visitors to Osaka and its vicinity, which were hit by a number of natural disasters earlier this year such as earthquakes, torrential rains and typhoons.

The bureau does not plan to create a new smartphone app itself. Instead, it will make information available through an API service that will be freely accessible for external operators of smartphone apps.

Weather news and evacuation orders will be accessible via the service, which will also allow foreign embassies to publish messages for their nationals in emergency situations. Sightseeing information will be offered through the service when there are no disasters.

An official at the local bureau of the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said, “We want to develop (the system) into a framework that can respond to big events.”

According to the bureau, trial tests using information in English, Korean and Chinese will be held in Osaka Prefecture from February to April next year, with an eye on expanding the service to six prefectures in the Kinki region of western Japan and into 10 languages.

As fake posts and rumors were found to have spread through Twitter and other systems during previous times of disaster, the bureau will limit sources of information via the new service to public institutions and disaster-relief organizations.

West Japan Railway Co., satellite broadcasting service firm Sky Perfect JSAT Corp. and the Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau, among other companies and municipal governments, will take part in the trial.