Technology and People Power Critical to Homeless Website
22 March 2016 at 8:37 am
Ask Izzy, the mobile website that connects people who are homeless or at risk with services has had a strong first month, but the organisation behind it says there is more hard work to be done.
Around 31,000 people have visited Ask Izzy since it launched in January to search for homelessness and other support services across the country.
Infoxchange CEO David Spriggs said that while this is a great start, it is only just the beginning of getting Ask Izzy into the hands of people in need.
“We are very pleased with the initial numbers to the website, but what we need is sustained uptake over time and to get that we need help from service providers,” Spriggs said.
“Service providers play a critical role in making sure Ask Izzy is a relevant tool for them and the people they support.
“I encourage them to visit the site, provide feedback and help us get the word out by telling their clients.”
Infoxchange engaged with more than 2,000 people to develop Ask Izzy, including over 100 people who were directly involved in the co-design. This group included people with lived experience of homelessness, caseworkers, Not for Profit and government departments.
With a study by the University of Sydney finding that almost 80 per cent of people who are homeless own smartphones, Ask Izzy was designed for mobile, tablet and desktop.
“Our first question was: ‘what do people who are homeless really need?’ So we got in touch with organisations including the Council to Homeless Persons and VincentCare, who introduced us to a group of passionate and engaged people with lived experience of homelessness,” Spriggs said.
“Their insights allowed us to consider things that we hadn’t thought about before.”
Danny Nepean, who spent over a decade living on the streets of Melbourne, said that Ask Izzy would have been a vastly valuable tool when he was homeless.
“The knowledge that I picked up playing around with Izzy for about an hour probably took me two or three years on the street to actually pick up,” Nepean said.
Spriggs said that continuing feedback from users is important.
“Ask Izzy is a product of collaboration with the sector and that collaboration needs to continue to make sure Ask Izzy is a relevant tool that assists service delivery in the long term,” he said.
“We can’t do that without listening to our users and responding to feedback.”
Spriggs said that another way service providers can play their part is by checking their service listing is up-to-date.
“No one expects to be homeless, and it can be a really complex system to navigate. We need to make sure service listings are up-to-date so that people in need get the right information,” he said.
“We have a team dedicated to updating the directory, but we encourage service providers to get in touch if they have a change in program or find their information is not up-to-date.”
Ask Izzy will evolve over time, with the next product update schedule for mid-2016. Key new features will be a temporary services and events capability, which will allow service providers to add their own information directly into the database.
“We’re confident that with continuing collaboration, Ask Izzy can become the go-to tool for finding services and can make a real difference in the lives of those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness,” Spriggs said.
“Over time, we hope Ask Izzy will give a comprehensive view of service demand across the country, allowing the sector and government to make more informed choices about future investment.”
Ask Izzy was developed by Infoxchange in partnership with Google, REA Group (realestate.com.au), News Corp Australia and over 20 major and contributing partners from the community, government and academic sectors.
Find out more at www.askizzy.org.au