Tag Archives: ICT

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!

NDIA push for innovative ICT

I previously mentioned the briefing I attended by the National Disability Insurance Agency and Dept of Human Services on their new ICT plan on 16 June. It is clear there were some important messages in there that the wider sector may want to hear. Unfortunately the Agency has taken down links to the event although they’ve sent out a copy of their slides to participants.

Sean Fitzgerald did a great job as MC and provided a very good introduction to the role of AT in his life and full participation.

David Bowen (NDIA CEO) talked about the ‘NDIA Journey to Date’. One slide caught my attention as current hot topics:

David Bowen's sense of what the Agency has learnt

This reflects the NDIS Progress Report: Year 2.  The 2015-2016 Federal budget announced $143M over 4 years to provide the NDIA with an ICT system to support full rollout. So ICT is a big ticket item at this point, but the Agency is very conscious (I think) that some participants and their advocates have felt a bit ‘out of the loop’ as things have developed. So ‘co-design’ is a bit of a buzzword, and the Agency (and the Federal Government Departments generally) are looking for ways to influence and ‘gearing’ their investment.  ‘Facilitate, shape and inform’ based on the evidence, and intervene only when necessary is seen as the way NDIA will deliver on its objectives when the markets have matured.

This was reflected in the presentation by the Dept of Human Services (DHS; currently responsible for Medicare, Centrelink and many of the Federal Government ‘front office’ interactions with citizens) who are designing & planning the ICT solution. The DHS spoke of its capacity and experience, but then shifted gear to speak of it’s Dandelion program for traineeships for people with disability in their ICT Hub, co-design and testing with participants, and innovation for future human-machine interfaces.

Esther Kerr-Smith encouraged the ICT industry to bring their innovation and technology to enhancing the experiences of participants in technology they encounter every day. Rather than specialised technology (AT), can aspects be built into mainstream technologies and system? The NDIA is exploring ways to help catalyse innovation, and then create a ‘pull through’ of new technology with their (and government’s) purchasing power. She outlined the innovation strategy I’ve previously mentioned. The ICT program was seen as a ‘central platform’ to engage the “eMarket” as they’re calling it:

Diagram of the E market platform from the NDIA slides

So there is lots going on, but this seems to set an agenda for the way the Agency is moving forward.  If you are really interested in this stuff, I’d suggest getting in contact with the NDIA ICT team for any future updates they may put out.

NDIA starts to open up about AT in NDIS

On Wednesday 10th June I was able to discuss the current state of NDIS work in AT with the relatively new General Manager, Market and Sector Division, Esther Kerr-Smith. It followed my letter to the CEO of NDIA in April .

Essentially Esther was briefed by the CEO to accelerate the NDIA AT discussion and readiness. The aim was to make sure that ‘technology is a catalyst for innovative solutions and enhanced efficiencies for NDIA assistance to participants.’ After 3 months or so getting a handle on things, talking to staff and others, Esther is now gearing up on developing an AT Strategy.

The Strategy was likely to have three parts:

  1. Innovation – using NDIS as a catalyst for innovation in AT, and its use to benefit participants.
  2. Choice & control – developing and enhancing guidelines, addressing issues for information, trial, choice etc.
  3. Sourcing & procurement – drawing on the earlier AT Framework paper, but now under further test from Boston Consulting.

Matthew Massy-Westropp was appointed through to the end of the year to bring a broader perspective with domain knowledge and is focused on developing the component parts of the strategy. A key part of this is the engagement approach – which the NDIA wants to make more focused on hearing from participants.

Aspects of these new approaches are being considered/approved for progress by the Board, and the Agency will now be increasingly opening this up to consultation/engagement. On Tuesday morning this week (16th), the NDIA had a briefing on ICT aspects for their systems. Interestingly Esther and David Bowen both made the point during the session the focus was on innovation to assist participants engage personally with the Agency, and also to catalyse new support options (think ubiquitous accesssible ICT, Smart AT etc.) for them using ICT (the webcast is likely to go online in a few days).

Sean Fitzgerald was MC for the event and, apart from my misgivings about him narrowing the definition of AT, did a great job in highlighting the opportunities and issues in ICT to a relatively mainstream audience. As this was Microsoft, Google, big & smaller ICT businesses, it put them on notice that the tenders/procurement would have a strong emphasis on solutions to empower people with disability (and involve them in the innovation & delivery aspects). It also highlighted that both Dept of Social Services (DSS) and Dept of Human Services (DHS – who are in charge of the underlying project management of the ICT build drawing on their experience in Medicare/Centrelink) were also overtly thinking about how they could more directly connect with people with disability, and not rely on carers or others as a ‘go between.’

This is probably the first ‘cab off the rank’ info sharing event, and Esther indicated to me there are other planned events/meetings in the second half of the year with AT presentations, but also including forums/meetings to develop and refine the NDIA approach to AT. The next opportunity is a Q&A session on 26 June. group-418449_640

So expect more to emerge and I think yet again, we need to remember to be listening to consumers of AT and encouraging them to speak up as the Agency seeks their input.