Ask Izzy Apps Expands to Help Indigenous Homeless
15 February 2017 at 11:33 am
The not-for-profit mobile website connecting homeless people with essential support services, Ask Izzy, is being expanded to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander access to health and wellbeing services.
The free Ask Izzy app was developed by technology NFP Infoxchange, search engine giant Google, realestate.com.au and News Corp Australia. It was launched in January 2016 by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
The developers said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples made up almost a quarter of people supported by homelessness services and were twice as likely to visit hospital for preventable conditions.
Infoxchange CEO David Spriggs told Pro Bono News that as the Closing the Gap report released on Tuesday found, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were continuing to experience significant levels of disadvantage particularly in the area of health and wellbeing.
“So the idea was, with the support of the Victorian government’s public sector innovation fund, to expand the use of Ask Izzy to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander access into health and wellbeing services,” Spriggs said.
“Already we are seeing that over 10 per cent of users of Ask Izzy are identifying as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and I guess what we are keen to do is to further enhance Ask Izzy. Firstly to be culturally safe and secondly to help provide information that speaks to them.”
He said the decision meant upgrading Ask Izzy to be more welcoming for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
“So we are looking at things like including some Aboriginal art work for example in the look and feel of the application. We are looking at introducing things like Aboriginal flags next to services that provide specific support for Indigenous members of the community and we are undertaking a significant co-design exercise with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to work through with them about what they need for the application to be more accessible,” he said.
“Really that also points to the broader Ask Izzy – that’s about self determination and empowerment to help people find services that are relevant for them and then helping them connect into those services and then it’s that individual’s decision to connect into the service.
“There are already significant services available to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders but often it was finding those services that was the challenge.”
Spriggs said the long-term aim was to use the important data it gathered from Ask Izzy and input it into the Closing the Gap research and to provide it to policy makers around the services needed for the Indigenous community.
The Infoxchange project is funded under the Victorian Government’s $11 million Public Sector Innovation Fund and builds on a trial that was run in Healesville and Wodonga with the department of health and human services.
The coordinator of the Aboriginal Homelessness Network at Ngwala Willumbong Dan Laws assisted Infoxchange in reaching out to local communities and said the project had been a long time coming.
“As an Aboriginal person and one who works in the homelessness and family violence sectors I have found Ask Izzy to be beneficial not only for myself as a reference guide, but the feedback from community has been one of ‘at last’, in terms of its helpfulness,” Laws said.
“With over 272,000 searches made for food, health, shelter and other services so far, the demand for a product like Ask Izzy is sadly very clear.
“We hope that Ask Izzy will become a useful tool for organisations already doing great work in Aboriginal communities, by allowing people to find their services.”