New government technology on the horizon for the NDIS

4 minute read – NDIS technology

The media has not been kind to the NDIS and those who run it, at a Government level, of late.

If it’s not stories suggesting secret taskforces or plans to subtly dismantle the program and cut down funding for participants in need, it’s a focus on independent assessments and the potential they have to undermine the purpose of the entire initiative.

The loudest roar, most recently, has been related to this last point – independent assessments (now put on hold by the new Minister).

On-the-one-hand, the Government says they will provide a ‘consistent, transparent and equitable’ process for determining the needs and the allocations to a person who is requesting support.

On-the-other-hand, critics suggest moving from the current approach – participants acquiring reports from various therapists they have chosen themselves – will actually challenge the participant’s control of their own support.

As we all know, one of the key foundations of the NDIS, is providing participants more control over their care and greater choice in the providers from whom they receive support services.

Away from the mainstream media and the ABC, SMH, AFR (and various other acronym-based media outlets), another story has been bubbling along quietly – and that is the story of the Government’s investment in NDIS technology platforms.

Innovation Aus reports NDIA CEO, Martin Hoffman recently announced, at a Senate Estimates Hearing, the scheme will launch a new app in 2021, to make available on mobile devices, some of what participants can currently access in a web browser.

Ultimately, the plan is for the app to be linked to MyGov, similarly to other prominent government services, like the ATO.

While several articles report some oppose this move, with NDIS Technology Authority Chief, Marie Johnson apparently suggesting the Government is using participants as ‘guinea pigs’, many of us already use ATO and other functions connected to MyGov, with few issues.

Ms Johnson reportedly went further to suggest such tech experiments could lead to ‘human rights violations’ according to Innovation Aus.

These comments were largely in response to other work the Government, and partners have been doing to streamline NDIS processes. Most notably, a partnership with Commonwealth Bank, to test the use of blockchain technology in checking the legitimacy of expenses.

Elsewhere, ABC reports even NDIS architect, Bruce Bonyhady has suggested the Government should reassess its ‘overhaul of eligibility testing’ because it is spreading ‘fear and stress among Australians with disabilities’.

He describes the process, which relies on independent contractors, aided by digital tools and questionnaires, as ‘robo-planning’.

At Visicase, as we look to our own platform enhancements, both in the short-term and long-term, we are very much taking on board the discussion around these new apps, tools and other technology-based devises being introduced for providers and participants.

We are thinking about what is best for our users – those providing support and those receiving it – and we feel this same line of thinking should be applied to the Government tech space.

In fact, in developing any of these new Government NDIS apps or tools, several important questions should lead development:

  1. Does it make life easier?

When working with any audience, but especially a vulnerable audience, or an audience prone to stress or discomfort, it is important to ask if the update in technology – if this new tool or that new app – will make life so much easier, that the change is worth it for user.

At Visicase, this is a question we are consulting our users about more-and-more, and increasingly discussing internally, before we approach any new enhancement or update. We need to continue to improve and enhance – but how do we ensure those changes will make our customer’s lives better?

  1. Is it accessible and usable?

Obviously there are strict accessibility guidelines when developing digital platforms for people with disabilities. But even meeting those, some apps and digital platforms are confusing and difficult for participants to use.

When creating technology to support and empower this group, it’s important Government suppliers go beyond the prescribed accessibility guidelines and dive into areas like user experience. This should be underpinned by research with and input from the people who will benefit from the tool.

  1. Is it tested?

In some ways, we very much agree with the thoughts of Marie Johnson when it comes to technology in this area. While user testing and research should be done with those who will use a tool, this is not the right group to use as ‘guinea pigs’, to test new concepts and brand new technology.

Once we have tried and tested technology, once we know how to implement Blockchain in situations similar to this one, only then should we be looking at implementing it for more vulnerable audiences.

  1. Is it ethical?

This is a really big one, and a question that should always be asked, no matter what technology you are developing and who you are developing it for. And while legal is often more clear-cut, what is ethical can be open to interpretation.

Unethical can be something as simple as testing new technology on a vulnerable audience, knowing, if the tests are challenging or confronting, it could be very stressful or damaging for those people who trying out.

  1. Is it safe?

These days, we are ‘investing’ new technology and enhancing existing technology at a rapid rate, especially in the digital space. We are also seeing increased rates of more sophisticated and intelligent hacking, as well as basic tricks and scams.

Again, when working with vulnerable audiences, or any audience at all, safety always has to come first.

Whether its safety of data, understanding the implications of the technology, exposing vulnerable people to predators – as technology creators, we have a duty of care to think about the safety of the people for whom the technology is being built.

Developing technology is not just a job, or a business purpose, it’s also a privilege, especially when catering to those most in need in our communities.

We will continue to watch developments in the NDIS Government technology space with interest, always assessing through the lens of these important questions.

VisiCase provides an NDIS-ready business automation platform, built on powerful workflows. It helps you manage, streamline and optimise every component of your business, and its modules empower a positive employee and client experience.

Image by Christian Wiediger

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