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Five Tech4Good charities we’re backing to reimagine social inclusion

Tech4Good

Posted on October 18, 2018

6 min read

How many post-it notes does it take to shape a great social innovation? All jokes aside, social innovation is a serious business and through the Telstra Foundation’s Tech4Good Challenge, 15 Australian non-profits have put some serious skin in the game to learn new ways of working.

Earlier this year we partnered with education campus Academy Xi to support 15 charities through weekly training courses in Sydney and Melbourne for five months.  We added some seed funding, amazing teachers, mentors and collaborators to guide the charities as they scoped digital ideas into business cases and early stage prototypes.

Throughout the process, each participant confirmed what can be achieved when you unleash creativity, experimentation and digital innovation in the non-profit sector – we believe this is a sector well placed to find innovative solutions to some of our most pressing social challenges.

At the end of the program, 15 Tech4Good proposals were pitched to the Telstra Foundation Board who had the unenviable task of selecting five charities to receive an additional $450,000 of funding and support over the next two years.

While all of our Tech4Good charities demonstrated they have a rightful place in Australia’s digital innovation ecosystem, the successful charities clearly showed that their ideas were “ready for next stage investment and had dug deep to articulate their product roadmaps, risk mediation and social potential” of their proposals.

From supporting young people with Autism to creating a greater appreciation of Indigenous culture, we’re excited to discover the impact these five non-profits will make to so many different parts of society as they start to build, test and evaluate their Tech4Good products with the young people they were designed for.

Autism CRC

In stage 1 of the Tech4Good Challenge, Autism CRC designed a digital solution, called MyWay Employability, to help school leavers on the spectrum identify their strengths and interests, set goals and track progress on their path to a successful career.

“Almost two-thirds of people on the spectrum are unemployed. Reaching young people with a tailored program while they are still in school is critical because receiving the right support to plan and prepare early can set them up for success.” says Autism CRC project co-leader, Cheryl Mangan.

“Our work over the next two years will involve a deep dive with the autistic community to ensure relevance and optimal engagement for autistic young people. We will partner and collaborate with autism service providers and education departments to ensure MyWay Employability delivers value in practice, working to support young people on the spectrum as part of a comprehensive school transition strategy.”

BIG hART

For the past eight years, Australia’s leading arts and social change organisation, BIG hART has been working closely with the Indigenous communities in Roebourne, the Aboriginal heart of the Pilbara region in Western Australia, developing a special digital work with substantial social impact.

Now, thanks to the Telstra Foundation, BIG hART has the opportunity to expand the reach of this digital resource to help build bridges of respect and understanding between the future generations of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia and assist teachers with their Indigenous history and culture cross-curriculum priorities.

“We’re extremely delighted and proud to make it through to stage 2 of the Tech4Good challenge – it’s a very exciting time for us as we continue our partnerships with the community and young Indigenous people of Roebourne. With the Telstra Foundation’s support we are going to take NEO-Learning to the next level,” says BIG hART Associate Artist Mark Leahy.

eOrygen

eOrygen, the digital division within Orygen which works to transform youth mental health care through science and technology, are developing a mobile app called Real, to transform therapy from a place young people go occasionally for support, to a 24/7 tool that proactively delivers real time help in the real life moment it’s needed.

Over half of all young people will experience a period of mental ill health, such as anxiety and depression, during their transition to adulthood. This has profound consequences for many young Australians – mental ill-health is the leading cause of disability and death among 15-24-year-olds.

“This additional funding gives us the opportunity to try something completely new in youth mental health care. This is a direction our team has been eager to take for some time, and we’re so excited to be able to embark on this project with the support and guidance of the Telstra Foundation’s Tech4Good challenge” says eOrygen program co-ordinator Tamsyn Gilbertson.

Expression Australia

Expression Australia

Through the Tech4Good Challenge Expression Australia have been exploring opportunities to develop an app that will help remove the stigma and improve mainstream community attitudes towards deaf people.

Their digital solution – Auslan Anywhere – will provide key signs, sentences, poetry, stories and even songs in Auslan as well as best practice guidelines for how to address and communicate with people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

“This additional funding and support from the Telstra Foundation will allow the Deaf Community the opportunity to share our language, Auslan, and culture through technology. The financial and expert support from Telstra and Academy Xi will be invaluable, just as it has been throughout the Tech4Good Challenge process. As a non-profit, it’s unlikely that Expression Australia would be able to self-fund a project of this magnitude and we look forward to the impact this will have,” says Expression Australia Manager Maxine Buxton.

Infoxchange

Ask Izzy - Infoexchange - Tech4Good

Armed with data from more than one million searches on their Ask Izzy mobile website which provides information about support services for young people experiencing homelessness, the Infoxchange team are using the Tech4Good challenge to explore adding a voice activated digital assistant to the platform.

“Not only will a voice assistant help users access the information they need quickly, it will help disrupt the cycle of youth homelessness by providing a more conversational and personalised way for young people in need to connect to support and services,” says Infoxchange Senior Program Manager Lisa Fletcher.

“The voice assistant will also make it easier for people with English as a second language, low literacy, limited hand dexterity or vision impairment to find help. We’re really excited that we have the opportunity to bring this digital idea to life with another two years of support and funding from the Telstra Foundation.”

Visit The Telstra Foundation’s Tech4Good hub to find out more about the Tech4Good Challenge and the 15 participating non-profits who took part in stage 1.

How tech is helping to balance the playing field for many young Australians

Tech4Good

Posted on September 27, 2018

5 min read

We all remember that feeling of uncertainty in those final few months of high school: ‘will I do well in my exams, what career path will I take, will I get into the university of my choice, will I get the apprenticeship I want so badly’…?

For many young school leavers with autism or mental health issues, this transition phase can present additional challenges with limited career and further education opportunities available to suit their needs.

Through the Tech4Good challenge, three non-profits – Autism CRC, Raise Foundation and Top Blokes Foundation – are developing digital platforms to increase the accessibility of their support and mentoring services to reach more young people in need, and help them thrive.

Autism CRC

Autism CRC is the world’s first national, cooperative research effort focusing on autism across the lifespan of an individual. Their vision is to see autistic people empowered to discover and use their diverse strengths and interests.

In the Tech4Good Challenge, the Autism CRC team designed a digital solution to help school leavers on the spectrum identify their strengths and interests, set goals and track progress on their path to a successful career.

“Almost two-thirds of people on the spectrum are unemployed. Reaching young people with a tailored program while they are still in school is critical because receiving the right support to plan and prepare early can set them up for success.” says project co-leader, Cheryl Mangan.

Autism CRC sees a need and opportunity for their digital platform – MyWay Employability – and have engaged over 230 young people, parents, professionals, and educators to co-design the service.

“Unlike generic career information services, MyWay Employability is co-produced with the autistic community to help young people identify their strengths and interests matched to relevant careers and pathways,” says project co-leader Marina Ciccarelli.

MyWay Employability will be launched as a mobile-first web application and trialled with thousands of young people all over Australia.

“We are working with parents and educators to ensure MyWay Employability is there for the very first conversation a young person has about their future, to help them prepare for their first work experience, and for long-term success.” says Cheryl.

“Our long-term goal is to make MyWay Employability available to the 44,000 young people on the spectrum aged 14-to-25 in Australia today, and specifically the 29,000 who are unemployed and underemployed,” adds Marina.

“We want autistic young people to recognise the skills and strengths they have to offer, to confidently enter the workforce and achieve success in their chosen pathways and careers.”

Raise Foundation

The Raise Foundation was created in 2008 to help empower young people to become more resilient, more capable and more connected through best practice mentoring programs in secondary schools.

“We know the mentoring approach works – the power of having someone neutral to talk to, who really listens and actually hears you is extraordinary. We’ve seen firsthand how it builds confidence, self-esteem and creates a safe environment for young people to ask for help when they need it,” says Volunteer Engagement Director Cherelle Martin.

“However, over the last few years we’ve found it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain volunteers to mentor young Australians,” continues Cherelle.

Research conducted during the Tech4Good challenge revealed Raise volunteers were frustrated by the manual processes and systems, and many were unaware of the impact they were making in the community, and therefore didn’t always feel compelled to support Raise’s programs year after year.

“As a result, we’ve completely overhauled our onboarding process and developed a digital engagement platform to manage our large volunteer base in a more streamlined and cohesive manner, we’re calling it the Raise Digital Village,” says Cherelle.

“The digital portal provides program information, calendar functionality, onboarding tools to facilitate Youth Safe Checks with government agencies, as well as training and program selection interfaces for our volunteers.”

The Raise Digital Village will also help volunteers to realise the impact of their volunteering with young people, and over time will scale up to include more features to complete the mentoring experience.

“Looking further ahead, we’ll introduce individual feedback and performance improvement opportunities, partnerships with the government organisations to simplify the legislation that can make it really challenging for our volunteers,” says Cherelle.

“When our full roadmap is realised, we will have the capability to on-board 15,000 mentors annually – 15 times our current yearly intake – and extend our social impact to benefit the broader community.”

Top Blokes Foundation

Do you have a young person in your life who you care about?  Have they ever struggled with stress or a mental health issue?  Do you believe they have the ability to be so much more than the problems they currently face?

So does the Top Blokes Foundation.

Established in 2006, Top Blokes aims to foster the social inclusion and resilience of young men aged 16 to 24 by empowering them to employ positive ddecision-makingskills, become positive role models, adopt healthier lifestyle choices and develop personal qualities of integrity, character and respect for others.

“Research tells us that young men experiencing mental health issues are less likely to seek professional help than others, which is why we focus on addressing social issues and removing stigmas by starting a positive conversation through our programs,” says Program Manager Callum Franciskovic.

Through the Tech4Good Challenge, Callum and the Top Blokes team are redesigning the online platform for their highly successful Building Blokes program to support more young men who are struggling to get help.

“One of our biggest challenges is capturing and retaining the attention of these at-risk young men, most of whom live in regional or rural areas without any real support structures,” says Callum.

“We believe this online platform can help fill that gap by providing information in an accessible format, support services via video as well as improved back of house functionality for our teams.”

Visit The Telstra Foundation’s Tech4Good hub to find out more about the Tech4Good Challenge and the 15 participating non-profits.

Creating a greater appreciation of diverse cultures through technology

Tech4Good

Posted on September 20, 2018

7 min read

Australia is a fast changing, ever-expanding and culturally diverse nation. Nearly half of us were born overseas, or have at least one parent who was, and we’re speaking more than 300 different languages in our homes according to the 2016 Australian Bureau of Statistics Census.

The Census also revealed almost 650,000 Australians identify as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin, an increase from the previous results.

Living in a multi-cultural society like ours means we’re exposed to new traditions, ideas, ways of thinking, opportunities for innovation and it’s something we should celebrate more.

Through the Tech4Good Challenge, three dynamic non-profit organisations – BIG hART, SYN and Settlement Services International – are exploring ways to promote Indigenous culture, improve refugee and asylum seeker integration into society and celebrate the many voices that make Australia so unique.

BIG hART

For the past eight years, Australia’s leading arts and social change organisation, BIG hART has been working closely with the Indigenous communities in Roebourne, the Aboriginal heart of the Pilbara region in Western Australia, developing a special digital work with substantial social impact.

NEOMAD is an interactive, futuristic fantasy comic created by young people, for young people, and takes school students on a journey through real places, real people and the world’s oldest continuing culture,” says Associate Artist Mark Leahy.

“It’s a work that’s delivered significant social impact with this community, including digital upskilling and providing pathways to future education and employment, and we’re keen to scale the social benefits of the project to a national audience.

The National Curriculum reporting authority (ACARA) requires all teachers across the country to include Indigenous culture and history in the subjects they teach and with 99 per cent of teachers coming from non-Indigenous backgrounds, a safe cultural resource is needed.

“By continuing to partner with the young Indigenous people of Roebourne to develop a NEOMAD online education resource, we see an opportunity to not only create a program that is truly authentic, credible and respectful but also plays a role in helping to improve the digital skills of young Indigenous Western Australians, which according to the Australian Digital Inclusion Index are currently 22 points below the state average,” continues Mark.

The first stage of the program will see BIG hART teaching the young people of Roebourne a variety of digital skills including how to use Photoshop®, shoot videos and create graphic animations. Then, through a series of video tutorials, young people will demonstrate these new skills with stories about Indigenous culture and history woven throughout.

Teachers across the country will be able to access these video tutorials amongst other education resources online by paying a small subscription fee, with all funds going directly back to the Roebourne community for continual reinvestment and development of the program.

“We see this program as one that will build young people’s understanding and connection to Indigenous culture through the digital tech of the future, contributing to reconciliation and celebrating pride and diversity in our cultural heritage for all Australians,” says Mark.

SYN

“We believe young people should be creators, not just consumers, of media,” says SYN Training and Development Manager Evrim Sen who helps provide training and broadcasting opportunities to young people aged 12 to 25.

“We’ve been a community youth broadcaster for more than 15 years – all the content we put to air is created by our 500 young volunteers.”

SYN prides itself on producing content and broadcasting stories which are a true reflection of modern Australian society, and the lack of diverse voices represented in the Australian media does concern them.

“Approximately 75 per cent of broadcasters in Australia are white, English speakers and are over the age of 35. It’s incredibly difficult for young people to get a foot in the door and be heard, let alone people from diverse backgrounds,” says Evrim.

Through the Tech4Good challenge, the SYN team are developing a new training program that will help more voices to be heard beyond Melbourne’s CBD and right across Victoria.

“Currently, only students who come to our physical headquarters are able to benefit from our training, skills and expertise – we want to change this by using technology to break down geographical barriers to reach more young people across the state, to hear their stories too,” says Evrim.

“We’re creating our first digital training program that teaches students how to use accessible technology like smartphones to record and document their stories and experiences, and then upload them to our website to engage with a broader audience.”

Initially, the SYN team will offer the digital training program to teachers as part of the Melbourne City Experience program, so that students can capture their experiences as they go, edit them at home and then share them on SYN’s website for other young students to see.

“We’ve produced lots of tailored training programs before, but we haven’t developed a digital program that can reach mass audiences – it’s a big step for our organisation and we’re really excited to see what stories we’ll uncover,” says Evrim.

Settlement Services International

Settlement Services International (SSI) is a community organisation and social business that supports newcomers and other Australians to achieve their full potential. SSI works with all people who have experienced vulnerability, including refugees, people seeking asylum and culturally and linguistically diverse communities, to build capacity and enable them to overcome inequality – an experience Youth Projects Coordinator Dor Akech Achiek knows very well.

Fifteen years ago Dor arrived in Australia with his mother, two siblings and two cousins as refugees from Kenya, and settled in Toowoomba, Queensland.

“Settling into Toowoomba was one of the hardest times of my life. Everyone in my class came from a different background to me, no one understood my culture. Teachers made assumptions about me and I struggled to find common ground with Australian kids,” says Dor.

Unfortunately, many kids arriving in Australia today are facing exactly the same challenges as Dor did.

“Many have been through harrowing journeys to arrive in Australia. Add to that an experience of cultural dislocation, loss of social networks and the practical demands of settlements, and it’s no wonder many young people are disengaged and disadvantaged,” continues Dor.

Through the Tech4Good Challenge, SSI have been looking at ways to improve access to settlement information and create opportunities for young refugees and asylum seekers to bond with, and give back to, their new communities.

“We’re developing a mobile app, which will be an extension of our current YouthLinkz service, to help facilitate personalised relationships between young people and SSI case managers through a secure chat room platform and a chat bot to help users locate relevant settlement information quickly,” says Dor.

“New interactive video materials and toolkits will also support our case managers who often feel overwhelmed by our administrative systems and processes, which limits their ability to directly interact with and help young people.”

The final feature of the app is a push notification system which will keep parents and families informed of their children’s emotional needs to help support them.

“We’re confident this new app will go a long way in helping young refugees and asylum seekers improve their emotional wellbeing, achieve their settlement goals and create opportunities to contribute positively to Australian society,” says Dor.

Visit The Telstra Foundation’s Tech4Good hub to find out more about the Tech4Good Challenge and the 15 participating non-profits.

Partnering with major water utilities to monitor and preserve our most precious resource

Telstra Vantage™

Posted on September 19, 2018

4 min read

Straight from Telstra Vantage™, hear more about how industry is transforming itself for the future from inspirational thinkers in an open discussion with host Adam Spencer.

Subscribe to the Telstra Vantage™ – Behind the Mic podcast now on iTunes, Whooshka or your favourite podcasting app.

Fresh, clean water is a precious but limited resource. The Bureau of Meteorology reports that Non-Revenue Water loss in Australia in the past five years reached over 870 gigalitres which is 10 percent of water utilities’ system input. Yet, in the 2015-16 year, household water usage increased three percent to 1,899 gigalitres. This means that while we’re using more water than ever, we’re also continuing to waste this highly valuable resource.

As we continue to experience the effects of a drying climate against a growing population and a higher use of water, the Internet of Things (IoT) is helping to conserve, protect, monitor and intelligently manage one of our most precious resources.

Whether it’s leakage prevention with smart water meters or environmental monitoring to keep our oceans clean and estuaries safe from contaminants, water utilities across the country are using IoT technology to better track, monitor and conserve water.

Over the past year, we have been trialing our Digital Water Metering IoT solution with some of the largest water utilities across Australia to identify water leakages and prioritise water-saving measures. For water utilities that want to better engage with their customers and have an obligation to use resources sustainably at all times, this is a critical benefit that demonstrates the power of IoT innovation for the industry. It also significantly improves their bottom line.

Our Digital Water Metering solution drives insights to prevent water wastage and reduce consumption – all which lead to reduced water bills for consumers and operating costs for utility companies.

We are also excited to announce the first CATM1 and NB-IoT certified module on Telstra’s IoT Network. The module is integrated into Telstra’s Captis Environment Monitoring IoT sensor. This IoT sensor is now available to enable our customers to proactively detect leakages, blockages and manage water quality and consumption at scale.

The Telstra IoT Network is one of the largest in the world and we are the only carrier in Australia to offer both Cat M1 and Narrowband IoT technology. Our customers can now connect a range of IoT solutions in more places than ever before on Australia’s largest, most reliable and most secure ready-built LPWA Network.

Specifically, Telstra’s NB IoT coverage now reaches more than 3.5 million square kilometres and is built to support millions of connected devices such as water quality sensors, environment monitors, trackers and alarms. By transmitting at very low data rates with coverage that reaches challenging locations – such as in-building and sub-surface – and battery life measured in years rather than days, NB-IoT makes scaled IoT deployments possible.

This means the Digital Water Metering solution can have a battery life expectation of 12 – 15 years, enabling capabilities such as power saving mode and deep sleep mode. And, with Telstra’s NB-IoT footprint now reaching more than 3.5 million square kilometres, it means that water consumption can be tracked and monitored at greater reach and greater depth. It also means that many of the regional water utilities can tap into water insights in areas that have previously been costly to access.

The opportunities here are endless, and the dividends are massive for providers, consumers and the environment. With IoT powering innovation that brings smarter gains in efficiency and productivity, as well as larger reductions in wastage, we can now do more with water while also using less. And we can do it all better than we ever could before.

How non-profits are using technology to put help at the fingertips of young Australians

Tech4Good

Posted on September 11, 2018

6 min read

Who remembers going to the library to borrow books for a school assignment, or if you were a child of the 90’s perhaps you used CD-ROM encyclopaedias like Encarta?  For today’s generations, the internet is now the first port of call for research and information gathering.

As we know, the internet is about so much more than that, from improving social connectedness to providing greater accessibility to essential services like banking and government support, the benefits of being online are well documented.

However, with such a wealth of information available now available, we’ve all experienced challenges around finding the right answers quickly.

Through the Tech4Good Challenge, three remarkable non-profit organisations – Infoxchange, Youth Law Australia and Youth Junction – are exploring ways to make accessing essential information more efficient for diverse and disadvantaged young people.

Infoxchange

“Youth homelessness in Australia is a bigger problem than many people realise. Every night 116,000 Australians are sleeping rough, and 40 per cent are under the age of 24,” says Infoxchange Senior Program Manager Lisa Fletcher.

“Our Ask Izzy mobile website provides information on more than 360,000 services for young people experiencing homelessness, including where to find food, a safe place to sleep, showers, toilets, clothes for interviews and support services like lifeline.”

Whilst up to 80 per cent of people experiencing homelessness have access to a smartphone, the way young people are using mobile technology is changing. One fifth of mobile enquiries are now by voice and 40 percent of adults use voice searches more than once a day.

Armed with data from more than one million searches through the platform since it first launched in 2016, Lisa and her team are using the Tech4Good challenge to explore adding a voice activated digital assistant to the website.

“Not only will a voice assistant help users access the information they need quickly, it also enables us to address some accessibility challenges around low literacy, vision impairment, limited hand dexterity and English as a second language, whilst providing a human two-way connection for users,” said Lisa.

Users will also have the option to receive more information via SMS following a conversation with the voice assistant.

The pilot will initially run in Melbourne, a hotspot for homelessness, to allow the Infoxchange team to develop a good user experience and ensure people’s needs are being met.  From there, Lisa hopes to add more translation services for languages other than English, and expand to a national roll out.

“The digital assistant has been co-designed with young people and I’m really excited about the benefits it will bring to Ask Izzy users, most importantly by providing a personalised, conversational and supportive way for young people to find the services they need,” said Lisa.

Youth Law Australia

Annually, 1.5 million Australians aged 15 to 24 will experience a legal problem, but what’s more surprising is that the great majority won’t receive any legal help to resolve their issue.

“There are two factors at play here – often young people don’t realise what they are experiencing is a problem that would benefit from legal help. Secondly, they find it incredibly difficult to identify the right solution for their situation,” says Youth Law Australia (YLA) Director Matthew Keeley.

For more than 25 years YLA (formerly the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre) has provided free legal assistance to young Australians experiencing problems ranging from cyber bullying to debt stress and relationship breakdowns.

“With legal support that is tailored to the individual and communicated in a way that’s easy to understand, young people can avoid or at least mitigate the effects of these problems,” continues Matthew.

“Research shows adolescents are more likely to search online for help than approach their peers or parents. However, they’re often getting lost in complex and poorly organised service systems.”

Through the Tech4Good challenge, Matthew and his team are exploring adding a digital assistant to their website to transform the way young people discover and receive legal help.

“We’re calling our digital assistant AYLA – Ask Youth Law Australia – and she will be the first point of contact for people visiting our website. By having a conversation with users through a variety of new platforms including an artificially intelligent chatbot, we’ll be able to provide young people with tailored solutions and referrals to the services they need,” said Matthew.

Looking further ahead, AYLA will also be available on some of the YLA’s partner websites that support mental health, youth workers, people with a disability and more to ensure that when young people and their advocates search these services online, there’s legal support available too.

“These organisations already value our support and we see this as an innovation the whole sector can benefit from.”

Youth Junction

The Youth Junction Inc. is a unique ‘one stop shop’ of services designed to support the ever changing and complex youth dynamic in the North West Region of Melbourne.

“With up to 20 not for profit organisations operating within the hub, we support approximately 18,000 young people who face a range of disadvantages, through multiple services and programs delivered by psychiatrists, GPs, mental health professionals, lawyers and more,” said The Youth Junction Inc CEO Dr Karen Hart.

Currently, 12 to 25 year olds requiring access to these services are formally referred through schools, legal representatives, community organisations or the court system.

“What we’re finding is that meeting us in person is much more effective than talking over the phone but we still need to get young people through the door by using a variety of methods including SMS, telephone, Facebook and website. Often young people become anxious or confused about how best to use our services and a youth user-friendly app would offer the best solution to this problem,” says Karen.

Through the Tech4Good program, Karen and The Youth Junction Inc.’s Program Coordinator Kristine Bugeja are developing a mobile app called ‘YouthSpace’ which will allow young people to navigate the system, stay connected, engaged and informed, and control their interactivity and help-seeking in a confidential way.

“The app will allow users to access helpline services, speak with a case worker confidentially, make appointments, view video tutorials to guide them through law enforcement situations and explain their rights and responsibilities in different youth-related scenarios. “ said Kristine.

“By providing this information in a digital format and using language that’s easy to understand, we’re able to connect with, and educate, young people facing disadvantage through a platform they feel comfortable to use, respond well to and engage with ease.”

“Ultimately, we hope the app will help reduce some of the fear and anxiety young people have around receiving professional help.  We want to stop young people from falling through the cracks, and instead help them on pathways to better health, housing, employment and further education opportunities,” said Karen.

Visit The Telstra Foundation’s Tech4Good hub to find out more about the Tech4Good Challenge and the 15 participating non-profits.