New Data Platform Matches Homelessness Services With Demand
26 October 2016 at 5:07 pm
A new open data platform, from the creators of Ask Izzy, will track where homeless people are seeking support services to uncover gaps and better match service locations with their needs.
The Infoxchange initiative, supported by $500,000 funding from Google Australia, will use data from its Ask Izzy app, which connects people who are homeless, or at risk of being homeless, with service providers, to map demand and supply across Australia.
Since the app’s launch in January, it has already had more than 200,000 searches.
Infoxchange CEO David Spriggs told Pro Bono Australia News from the launch on Wednesday that there was both a “huge opportunity” and “huge need” for the open data platform.
“The data that’s coming out of Ask Izzy… for the first time it’s giving a picture of service demand – not just shelter services but food services, counselling, health, other kinds of support services – across the country,” Spriggs said.
“We can match the needs of individuals against where the services are, which at the moment you’ve got no way of telling.
“We know where the services are… we can already see from the data coming out of the back end of Ask Izzy where the demand for services is, and it’s obviously right across the country.
“But [the system is] not setup to match where a lot of the services are located. Often people have to travel big distances to get to the services that they actually need.
“So we can better match that kind of supply and demand of services.”
He said Infoxchange would work with policymakers and service providers to ensure they have the information they need to tailor services to specific locations.
“We’re planning to follow a co-design process for the development of the open data platform, so it involves government at all levels – federal, state and local – and a lot of the service providers… to work out what is it that they’re looking for and how can the data best assist them,” he said.
“We’ve started already with conversations… and there’s kind of different needs at each of those from the macro-perspective with governments in terms of where should funding be directed, and where can we be most effective with services, down through to individual service level provider.
“For example, Orange Sky Laundry… they’re coming to us saying that they could access the data from Ask Izzy to see where people are looking for laundry services to be able to wash their clothes, where there aren’t services, and that would be the next location to send in their vans.”
Spriggs said the co-design phase would begin late this year or early next year, with the Ask Izzy open data platform to publicly launch in the second half of 2017.
Ask Izzy was developed by Infoxchange, Google, realestate.com.au and News Corp Australia.
Spriggs said its impact so far had been “incredible”.
“Our original goal was to get to 100,000 people in two years and we managed to meet that in the first three months,” he said.
“That’s from a metric perspective. But then there’s individual stories that we’re hearing of people using the platform… being able to quickly and easily find access to things so many of us take for granted, whether it be finding the next meal or finding where somebody can pick up a food package or basics of getting blankets through to finding crisis accommodation.
“I think quite sad as well is that almost half of the users of Ask Izzy to date have been under the age of 25, so a lot of young people out there in need of finding services.”