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New tech to help homeless youth connect to services

Telstra Foundation Tech4Good

Posted on August 6, 2019

3 min read

In line with Homelessness Week – an annual awareness-raising week to highlight the 116,000 Australians who are homeless on any given night – Infoxchange announces the development of its new technology to help vulnerable Australians better connect to support and services.

Powered by the Telstra Foundation’s Tech4Good Challenge, Infoxchange is working to develop its award-winning mobile website, Ask Izzy, with the aim of providing a more conversational, personalised and supportive way to connect young people at risk of or experiencing homelessness to services.

Launched in 2016, Ask Izzy connects people in need with housing, meals, money help, family violence support, counselling and much more. It is free and anonymous, with over 370,000 services listed across Australia.

With the 2016 Census of Population and Housing revealing that nearly 60% of homeless people were aged under 35 years, Infoxchange is now working on the next evolution of Ask Izzy, to better help homeless youth connect to the services they need.

Originally pitched as a voice assistant, the next iteration of Ask Izzy is being developed based on insights, research and design testing, which found young people are more likely to use a chatbot. Through in-depth interviews and co-design workshops, Infoxchange is working closely with service providers and over 35 young people with lived experience of homelessness to co-design chatbot functionality that best meets the needs of homeless youth.

Set to roll out in March 2020, the chatbot is currently in testing and is the biggest change to the Ask Izzy platform since 2016. Through the chatbot functionality, Ask Izzy will better help connect people to the support they need while maintaining human connection and integrity for its users.

Telstra has been a long-standing supporting partner in the development of Ask Izzy and we’re thrilled to be part of the next phase of the journey with Infoxchange, to ensure we’re developing technology that will help disrupt the cycle of youth homelessness.

Ask Izzy is free to use on the Telstra mobile network, meaning that people don’t need to rely on credit or access to Wi-Fi in order to use the site. With more than 2.5 million searches on the site since it was first launched in 2016, Ask Izzy connects tens of thousands of people to the help they need every month.

Also just launched is the Telstra Top-up program, which provides a complimentary $30 recharge to those who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness and or/family violence. The program is available to specialist housing providers via Infoxchange across Australia and eligible services have already been sent an invitation to opt-in.

If you’re wondering what you can do to help, we are encouraging people to make a $15 donation to purchase an Ask Izzy mobile power card. Up to four hours of power can be just enough to find a meal, health services, a blanket or even a bed for the night. The cards are rechargeable and will be distributed through homeless service providers around the country.

IDX Flint inspires the next generation of digital makers

Technology For Kids

Posted on July 31, 2019

3 min read

Dhimurru Rangers in northeast Arnhem Land are looking to the sky to monitor land and wildlife alongside Yolngu young people, thanks to specialised tech training provided by the Indigenous Digital Excellence (IDX) Flint program.

The IDX Flint team met the rangers during a visit to Yirrkala, a small Aboriginal community approximately 700km east of Darwin.

Working in collaboration with Yirrkala Bilingual School, the IDX’s Flint team provided specialised tech training to Yolngu young people and local facilitators including elders, teachers and rangers using drones, robotics and virtual reality. The aim was to add a technology element to broaden existing community programs.

The IDX Flint team trained local facilitators to champion the Flint program in the community. The group included members of the Dhimurru Rangers, as well as teachers and staff from Yirrkala Bilingual School.

The visit to Arnhem Land was a first for IDX Facilitator Abigail David.

“I’ve never been to Arnhem Land before and I was really excited to work with the Dhimurru Rangers and students from Yirrkala,” Abigail said.

Before IDX’s visit, the Flint team worked closely with the Yirrkala Bilingual School to co-design the tech workshops to ensure they met the needs and aspirations of the community. The workshops held over five days included robotics, coding, drone basics, virtual reality and gaming.

“It’s really about the community owning Flint, so they can continue to drive the use of the technology when we leave,” Abigail said.

Caring for Country

Each year Yirrkala Bilingual School work closely with the Dhimurru Rangers to deliver a ‘Caring for Country’ program for students.

Students spend time out on country with Traditional Owners, rangers and teachers to learn maths and other subjects. They map and measure everything from rubbish to turtle numbers.

With the introduction of the Flint program, the group now hope to use the technology as part of the learning experiences.

Tech future for Yirrkala

Senior teacher at Yirrkala, Daniel Yore said that the introduction of Flint into existing curriculum is a great opportunity to connect and explore the potential of these new technologies.

Robots will become a regular feature in the classroom at Yirrkala Bilingual School thanks to the IDX Flint Program, a joint initiative of the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence and the Telstra Foundation.  

“The kids just had an absolute ball,” Daniel said.

Daniel explained that it’s not often that the small community of Yirrkala is the recipient of such programs like Flint and said he really can’t wait to see where the technology takes them in years to come.

“It was such a privilege working with the IDX Flint team. [The] guys are such a professional and passionate outfit and an absolute credit to the organisation represented. We sincerely look forward to having [the team] back up here in Arnhem Land soon,” Daniel said.

As part of the program, each Flint site receives a tailored kit of equipment and educational resources of their choice, to the value of $10,000. The Yirrkala mob have selected a drone and the Lego Mindstorm EV3 starter pack for up to 8 students as part of their kit.

Social innovation, enabled by tech, is remarkable

Tech4Good

Posted on July 31, 2019

4 min read

This July, Australia’s first disability-focused impact accelerator, Remarkable, showcased its latest cohort of graduating start-ups at the Remarkable Demo Day.  As part of the celebrations, Telstra announced the winner of the Telstra People’s Choice Award – a $5000 cash prize awarded to the Remarkable start-up pitch receiving the most votes from Telstra employees. This year, sameview, a start-up looking to better coordinate disability care, won the golden ticket.

sameview is a trusted online platform that streamlines care coordination, and gives families the confidence to build their own team, set their own goals, and walk their own path.

We chatted with Danny and Jess Hui to discover more about their motivation to create this platform, and to hear about their Remarkable experience.

Tell us about your startup. What’s the problem you’re solving for people with disability?

sameview is a trusted online platform that takes the stress and workload out of care coordination. We help families who care for a child with a disability to get everyone from their team (doctors, therapists, support workers, teachers, family, and friends) onto the same page, and working together to effectively achieve their goals.

What inspired you to start this?

Our youngest son Monty, was born with a complex disability, and coordinating our team of over 30 different professionals was something we struggled with. We met many other families struggling with this same issue and sameview was born from our desire to solve this issue. What we now also know, is just how important coordination and collaboration in disability support and intervention is to achieve each family’s goals.

What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing with building your start-up, and how do you think Remarkable can help you overcome this challenge?

The biggest challenge for us coming into Remarkable was fully articulating our value proposition, where we fit in the market, and how we can become sustainable. Since starting Remarkable, we’ve already made great progress towards solving these challenges.

What have been the highlights of your Remarkable experience so far?

We are so lucky to have been surrounded by a wealth of talented and generous individuals from all areas of business. These incredible people have given us the insight and confidence to tackle our weaknesses, and build the best sameview going forward.

Do you have any tips for startups who are trying to get on an accelerator program?

The Remarkable team’s hearts are in advancing the disability ecosystem, I think anyone looking to apply for Remarkable Accelerator Program should approach their application with openness and not being afraid to talk about their weaknesses. I would also suggest speaking to past participants to gain insight into the program.

What is your top tool, blog, book or podcast that you’d recommend others look at?

Obviously sameview’s weekly video diaries people can see on LinkedIn or Facebook. Apart from that one of our mentors recently recommended the podcast “How I Built This”, which has been so relevant to what we’re doing in Remarkable.

About the Telstra Foundation & Remarkable partnership

As Founding Funder of Cerebral Palsy Alliance’s Remarkable accelerator the Telstra Foundation’s support has helped connect inclusive startups with the tools, skills and networks they need to succeed.  The 16-week accelerator program has been tailored to early stage startups looking to build sustainable enterprises that have a big social impact. 

Remarkable also hosts events like Enabled by Design-athon and Meet-Ups to engage the broader community, from university students to corporate employees in the inclusive design process. Importantly, people with a disability are front and centre of Remarkable.

Young women bridging the digital divide in north-west Tasmania

Telstra Foundation

Posted on November 12, 2018

4 min read

A new digital inclusion strategy enabling young women to be change-makers and bridge the digital divide is taking shape in north-west Tasmania.

As the world moves forward with the next industrial revolution, tech skills are critical to a young person’s future and their ability to adapt and be innovative in an ever increasing digital landscape. Big hART’s Project O enables young women to learn new skills and create new employment pathways, building confidence and aptitude in digital media.

Whilst there was some improvement in north-west Tasmania evidenced in the 2018 Australian Digital Inclusion Index Report, digital inclusion in the north-west is still amongst the lowest in Australia, with economically disadvantaged communities across rural Tasmania having high exclusion rates.

Kimberley Chaplin, 15 from Wynyard in north-west Tasmania, is just one of the young women involved in Project O. With very limited computer access at home and school, Kimberley has joined Project O as she says it gives her more opportunities and gets her out of the house. She hopes to one day become an engineer and is hoping to learn programming, engineering software, and also film editing as part of the program. 15 year old participant Kailee Hanson had the opportunity to be mentored by Hobart filmmaker Eliya Cohen as part of Project O, learning about camera techniques, lighting and also working with editing software, Kailee said “I want to learn editing because it’s a form of art and it’s cool.”

Also supporting the young women is 17 year old Izzi Ward, who has come through Project O and is now a mentor. ‘It’s great the support Project O has in the community”, said Izzi, “It really creates a sense that there’s powerful women around you, supporting you.”

Through the program, young women participate in innovative, highly engaging workshops in graphic design, animation, augmented reality, virtual reality, drone-piloting, sound production, podcast creation, blogging, filmmaking, entrepreneurship, digital media and more. This will culminate in a series of high profile events engaging the community. These are run by the local young women, promoting them as capable, confident and digitally savvy.

Genevieve Dugard, National Director of Project O, says that Project O’s approach is not a one-size-fits all program but one that is tailored to each young women’s interests and needs, providing them with experiences and opportunities they would not normally have, led by strong female mentors. “The aim of our digital inclusion strategy is to equip these young women into the future with not just tech skills but also a confident, creative and entrepreneurial mindset, growing future young female leaders and business owners which will in turn strengthen the economy of north-west Tasmania”, says Genevieve.

Speaking at the launch of Project O’s digital inclusion strategy, 7th October 2018, at Table Cape Tulip Farm in Wynyard, north-west Tasmania, Robert Morsillo – our Digital Inclusion Senior Specialist – talked about the importance of being connected, having a sense of community and contributing creatively to society. “I commend Big hART and Project O and the amazing hard work of these young women who make it so special, “said Robert, “We want everyone to be able to thrive in our increasingly digital world and digital economy. Inclusion is really important for everyone – for jobs, for accessing government services and it can also be a lifeline.”

Project O is an initiative of Big hART, Australia’s leading campaigning arts organisation, which won the Telstra Business of the Year and Charity of the Year in Tasmania in 2017, and is led by 2018 Tasmanian Australian of the Year Scott Rankin. Project O’s new digital inclusion strategy is being rolled out in Wynyard and Smithton in NW Tasmania, Frankston Victoria, and Roebourne in the Pilbara in Western Australia.

How technology is helping Australia tackle youth mental health

Tech4Good

Posted on March 2, 2018

3 min read

Did you know that research has shown that the speed of typing on your mobile phone can be a predictor of depression?

As more young Australians deal with mental health issues, technology is playing a greater role in helping parents keep a close eye on their child’s state of mind.

The Telstra Foundation is a proud partner of Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, which is developing technology to revolutionise therapy for young people with mental health conditions as well as supporting those caring for them.

For Orygen, treatments are not just about traditional psychology and delivering services face-to-face, but reinventing youth mental health services, so patients are not only relieved of the symptoms of mental ill-health but can use technology and interventions to live happier, more fulfilling, connected and purposeful lives.

Imagine a social network like Facebook – but a closed network, specially built for Australian young people suffering from a mental health condition. It is specifically designed to promote meaningful interactions with one another. There are peer moderators or young people who have been trained to provide support in the online environment as well as access to clinicians.

Associate Professor Mario Alvarez is the head of e-health at Orygen, also called eOrygen, and is pioneering the use of online social media to foster long-term recovery in youth mental health. He says they are using the latest psychological models to translate the interventions into an online environment.

“For example, the way we do it is through online comics. We have professional writers and comic developers along with clinical psychologists, researchers and young people working together, and then we take a psychological intervention that works face-to-face and adapt that intervention to be delivered online through interactive online comics.”

When young people log onto the online platform, the first thing the system does is help them identify their personal strengths and then from there it helps them work out how to use these strengths in their everyday lives to stay connected with friends, deal with stress and to experience positive emotions and well-being.

The moderators are able to suggest content or therapeutic material that is relevant to a young person’s needs.

The results from Orygen’s research have been promising. One young person who participated in a trial said: “It is the best online service available. I think it is truly life-changing; having so many options to get help all in the one place is amazing.”

Another area of work for eOrygen is a Telstra Foundation-supported project in which young people consent to have an app running in the background of their mobile phone that monitors their activity and analyses the kinds of things they are posting; picking up on any changes in their behaviour.

Orygen also believes artificial intelligence has an important role to play, to help analyse the sentiment or emotional tone of a message on social media platforms. It helps professionals try and ascertain whether someone is potentially experiencing anxiety, depression or even social anxiety. From algorithms, they can better determine whether someone is behaving out of character – and then use that information to offer effective interventions.

eOrygen has big plans for technology in the mental health space, and to play a big part in helping the younger generation live happy and fulfilling lives.