NDIS New World Conference–coming soon!

In the last month or so there has been a flurry of information on webinars and most recently the New World Conference (27-29 October, Brisbane) from the NDIA. As I indicated in an earlier post, this may reflect the ‘next phase’ for the Agency after a period of reflection in the last 6mths or so, and particularly as some key personnel have changed.

Unfortunately there is always the risk when something becomes as big as the NDIS, particularly as it has to grow with speed, that if you miss some key briefing/presentation you may find future information confusing. I think that is what has happened for some in the AT sector with the release in the last couple of weeks of its New World Conference info. The Agency has been doing some of the background work on this event since early 2015 – but internally. Usually such an event would have been publicly announced 6 months or more out, but that has been delayed so it now seems quite a rush. If you are pondering whether to put in a paper or attend context is everything.

We need to remember that the CEO, David Bowen, is keen on using innovation and ICT to deliver better outcomes (see for example the NDIS Year 2 Progress Report). So the role of technology (such as AT, but also some of the new and emerging technologies) are recognised as valuable, even key, in enhancing outcomes for NDIS participants – ARATA members have known that for years. But it also means that the NDIA is looking at how ICT/technology can help it deliver a cutting edge Scheme including:

  • Better websites and assisting those with intellectual and other disability to use websites etc. to connect to the Agency, find information, choose a provider etc.;
  • Smarter, connected, business systems – for payments, tracking, data collection, analysis & research, reporting etc.;
  • Capitalising on the accessibility/support features in mainstream technologies (and some just around the corner), rather than building special solutions for ‘people with disability’;
  • Using the commercial buying power of the Australian government to challenge big technology players (e.g. Microsoft, Google etc.) to enhance offerings or tailor for the diverse Australian market. (Gunela Astbrink & William Tibben have a nice paper on this online)

With that context and the briefing given to Australia’s ICT sector by the NDIA, the Dept of Human Services (Medicare/Centrelink experts) and Dept of Social Services in June (see my previous post), the four themes of the New World Conference make more sense. This is how I see it:

The whole Conference is within the context of better outcomes for NDIS participants, and thence society generally.

  • Informed: This is the Agency and others ‘enlightening’ mainstream technology providers on the opportunity within the NDIS for their innovation,
  • Engaged: Opening up discussion between providers of supports (e.g. in home care etc.) and technology providers to find ways of using/tailoring technology to enhance their services/efficiency.
  • Focused: This is perhaps not too far from an ARATA/AGOSCI/ATSA Expo, or some of the more recent ‘hack fests’ where vendors and participants come together to solve problems with technology already available, or just around the corner.
  • Digital Aspiration Spotlights: This is what some call the ‘Blue Sky’ or ‘Visioning’ sessions. Mainly delivered by participants (current and future) speaking, showing, demonstrating about the issues they want a solution to and ideas they have ‘cobbled together’ to address a need, with the aim of getting the technology vendors to take them up.

So it is clearly going to have a strong focus on ICT, and there could be some fun and exciting discussions. Remember that ‘co-design’ is a key word for the Agency at the moment so discussions are unlikely to be one-sided! NDIA staff have indicated that there are likely to be side events and meetings to bring interested stakeholders together during the Conference to facilitate future planning.

The NDIS 2015 New World Conference could be a really interesting event, providing all the stakeholders can get their skates on; it’s only 3 months away!