Agents of change - making a better world with IT
- 03 May, 2017 07:00
Meet the panel:
- Edwina Mistry, industry and community engagement manager, Faculty of Business and Information Technology, Manukau Institute of Technology (winner)
- Wayne Hutchinson, general manager, information and improvement, Nurse Maude (highly commended)
- Neil Gong, group IT manager, Airedale Property Trust (finalist)
- Ruth James, events and outreach coordinator, Orion Health (finalist)
- Richard Parry, CIO, Stand for Children (finalist)
Manukau Institute of Technology: Developing future ICT leaders
Our youth are eager to learn from industry mentors and enjoy the interaction
Over the past few years the MIT Faculty of Business and IT has been organising events to engage school students with a limited perception of the choices, challenges and rewards of a career in IT.
School curricula do not provide the challenge and opportunity for students to experience IT in the real world of business. Coupled with this reaching out to students, is the long-recognised shortage of skilled people to work in IT.
Edwina Mistry, industry and community engagement manager, Faculty of Business and Information Technology at MIT, explains the backdrop for the two programmes, Shadow TEch and JHack, that saw her win the top award for the 2017 CIO100's ICT-enabled community programme category.
Shadow Tech encourages college girls (aged 14 to 16) to experience a day in the life of an IT professional, to enable them to consider career opportunities in IT.
While JHack was developed to encourage creativity, as well as to motivate students to consider a career in IT, with the objective of introducing programming to students in a stimulating format, she explains.
With ShadowTech, female students visit an organisation and 'shadow' a female IT professional for a day – experiencing the energetic and engaging, environment in which they work. The success of the Auckland programme has resulted in the creation similar initiatives in Wellington and Christchurch, says Mistry.
She says to date, the programme has had 300 student participants, with 25 organisations involved including: Air New Zealand, HP, Microsoft, BNZ, IBM, Spark Digital, Orion Health, RNZAF, Dimension Data, ASB Bank, Vodafone and Xero.
JHack, which is a partnership with Microsoft, brought together in 2016 more than 150 students from 20 Auckland high schools.
The students worked individually or in teams over two months to develop a game with support from industry mentor companies including Vodafone New Zealand, Xero, Air New Zealand, Orion Health, Auckland Council, Tenzing, Neotek, Fusion and Davanti.
“Our youth are eager to learn from industry mentors and enjoy the interaction,” says Mistry. “More organisations and people need to participate in these initiatives, as it is a way of having input in the lives of the young. The project is an opportunity to leave your mark on our future leaders.”
Nurse Maude: Improving lives
Nurse Maude provides community-based healthcare for people in the Canterbury and the West Coast.
The Nurse Maude medication management service aims to support clients to remain healthy and independent in their homes, by assisting with medication compliance.
Medication support clients commonly have blister packed medications and support worker visits, to prompt or supervise medication administration.
This is an effective but labour intensive service, explains Wayne Hutchinson, general manager, information and improvement at Nurse Maude.
Innovative technology is seen as one part of the solution to the problems of increasing demand on the healthcare system now and in the future
Innovative technology is seen as one part of the solution to the problems of increasing demand on the healthcare system now and in the future, he says.
Thus, one of the projects his team developed was an electronic medication dispenser.
The electronic medication dispenser, called Carousel, is a circular device with 28 separate compartments for medications and one door that accesses one compartment at a time.
The device is programmed to open at set times. At the selected time the internal cassette containing the medications rotates, an alarm sounds and the door opens allowing access to the medications in one compartment.
The alarm does not stop until the device has been tipped up and the medications emptied from the cassette.
The device was used as a standalone e-health tool for this project, but it can be linked to a control centre if required, he says.
The electronic medication dispenser intervention is assessed for and offered to appropriate clients, as an alternative to support workers.
It is filled, programmed and delivered by the client’s pharmacy. It is introduced in a staged and controlled way through a trial period to enable clients to learn how to use it and become independent with it.
Hutchinson explains the service is a collaborative effort between Nurse Maude, pharmacies and primary care (general practitioners), and has been in place for the past two-and-a-half years.
For clients, the electronic medication management service has increased medication compliance, independence and dignity, says Hutchinson.
“It has reduced medication management service cost through reducing the number of physical visits by support workers and also contributed to the efficient utilisation of the health budget in Canterbury.”
He estimates the 68 clients using the service are saving two support worker visits a day equating to 958 visits saved per week, leaving existing support workers free to work with other clients.
“The introduction of the electronic medication dispenser has opened the door to additional community services for a number of clients.”
Airedale Property Trust: Helping the homeless
Neil Gong, group IT manager at Airedale Property Trust, saw how technology can help make a difference to the clients of Lifewise Merge Cafe located on Karangahape Rd in central Auckland.
“The aim of the project is to upgrade the café with new technologies and to provide a safe and comfortable environment for our clients, including homeless people, to access digital technologies and online services,” says Gong.
APT, which is part of the Methodist Mission Northern, provides property development, project management, and property and tenancy management expertise for Methodist Church properties in the wider Auckland area.
Lifewise is an Auckland-based community social development organisation that is developing new ways to solve challenging social issues, and work with families, older people, people with disabilities and people at risk of homelessness.
In 2010, Lifewise closed its soup kitchen on Airedale St in central city and opened the community cafe Merge at 453 Karangahape Road, says Gong. "It also connects patrons with services that can provide pathways out of homelessness."
While the cafe has been a great success, it also faced a number of challenges in the technology space. First, the old point of sales (POS) system couldn’t support the complex services at the café, which means staff couldn’t accurately track and report all the activities.
Secondly there was no system or facility for clients to access internet and online services, which became a significant limitation.
The social workers were not equipped with the right devices to work with clients in the café, which increased their workload and reduced their availability.
"Also, we had a limited budget to make any improvement and which clearly indicated an innovative and creative approach would be needed," says Gong.
He and the APT staff sought the help of technology providers for the upgrade.
"Workin with Vend and its reseller Altshift, we were able to receive the Vend software as a charity donation and Altshift did the setup for us at a greatly reduced rate," he says.
“We involved our café staff in the design and made sure the new system is easy to use. By rolling out the new POS system, we can process and report all the different activities in the café and also improve our services.”
To solve the Internet access challenge, Gong turned to wireless device vendor Aerohive. The company helped set up a simple, secure and easy to use WiFi network that is free of charge.
“Our free WiFi usage went from less than five users a day in the first week to more than 30 users a day in six months,” says Gong.
For clients who did not have smartphones or computers, Gong says APT partnered with AUT, which donated two desktop computers.
They set up the two PCs as 'Internet Kiosks' in the café to allow people to look for jobs, accommodations and other services online. These two PCs have been the most popular add-ons in the café.
"To equip our social workers with the right devices, AUT also provided three iPads that were set up to secure access to our client and case management system," says Gong.
“This has allowed our social workers to spend more time with clients in the café, while recording all the information in real-time. It's a better outcome for both staff and clients.”
Gong also noted that there was no easy way to charge phones or laptops in the cafe.
"We worked with PBTech as well as Airedale Property and set up three USB and laptop charging ports, to allow easy and secure device charging while clients are eating.
“We also tapped into the corporate world’s 'volunteer day' programme and had an IT consultant from ANZ Bank help us put together an information security framework around the ICT services in the café.
"The outcome of this project is clear. We have successfully equipped our social café with the right systems and tools to better serve our clients and community in the digital and connected world. This is not a project done by us, it’s a project done by the community for the community.
"The project is ongoing. We are now looking to establish a similar setup for our 'youth to adult transition' facility in west Auckland. We will set up a smart CCTV system in the café and look at enabling presence and movement analytics using the wireless network.
"AUT has also agreed to offer digital literacy trainings to our clients using the facility in the café," he says.
“By sharing what we have done at the Lifewise Merge Café, we have the opportunity to thank the people and organisations who have helped us and also encourage more innovators to take on a similar approach.”
Orion Health: Building a pipeline of tech talent
Orion Health has always had a focus on student engagement.
"This is why we have created the Orion Health Outreach programme," says Ruth James, events and outreach coordinator at Orion Health.
James says the programme aims to encourage and inspire the next generation of New Zealanders, and help ensure a pipeline of skilled individuals with the potential to drive the technology industry of the future.
“We believe one of the best ways to encourage the next generation into the IT sector, is to let them experience what it actually looks and feels like to work in the industry.”
We believe one of the best ways to encourage the next generation into the IT sector, is to let them experience what it actually looks and feels like to work in the industry
So last year, the Orion Health offices in Auckland and Christchurch hosted 14 school and university visits, totaling 544 students.
“During each visit, we show our guests around our offices and invite staff to discuss their roles and their personal journey into the industry,” says James.
“We also talk to students about our passions, challenges and motivations. as well as other common issues within the tech field such as Impostor Syndrome or the lack of gender diversity.
She says the visits were a great hit with both students and teachers.
“It really encouraged me to pursue a career in tech, especially as a girl. It was good seeing the actual work environment,” she quotes one student as saying.
James says Orion Health staff also meet or mentor students and invite them to visit the company's office.
During these visits, the student is able to engage on a one-on-one basis with a greater variety of staff.
“This experience offers a more insightful and tailored opportunity for students, often exposing them to roles they were not aware of before,” she says.
Complementing these ‘in-house’ opportunities, Orion Health has helped sponsor and volunteered at a number of other youth initiatives.
"These include running regular Code Clubs at our Auckland office and one at Mangere Town Centre Library, and mentoring at MIT’s junior hackathon JHack.
“We are also deeply passionate about encouraging more women and girls into tech, supporting and sponsoring events like Programming Challenge for Girls and She#,” says James.
“I would encourage any tech company with the capacity to get involved with any of the numerous opportunities that are out there, to encourage young New Zealanders into tech.”
Stand for Children: Taking care of society's most vulnerable
Stand for Children is a nationwide NGO providing social work and respite services to New Zealand’s most vulnerable children.
Its CIO Richard Parry says the organisation was fortunate to have been selected by Microsoft NZ to be part of its Cloud for Global Good initiative.
“One of the ways we benefit from this partnership, is through Microsoft working with us to find ways to further our mission through technology,” he says.
Microsoft provided generous funding and support to enable Stand to bring the power of analytics into its case management system, he states.
Microsoft funded one of its Power BI partners, Stellar Consulting, to perform the work.
"Stellar has built an Azure-based data warehouse, pulling in daily extracts of our hosted case management system," explains Parry.
Now, it’s very quick for us to spot the outliers and high-risk cases, and we can also tell where we have bottlenecks in our organisation that are impacting our frontline services
"This data is anonymised at source before uploading and can then be manipulated into dashboards. These are giving our leadership teams daily snapshots of how they are performing, with the ability to dive into the report down to the case level to find specific cases that need immediate action," says Parry.
This continuous monitoring ability was previously only available in six- monthly reports at a national level.
“Now, it’s very quick for us to spot the outliers and high-risk cases, and we can also tell where we have bottlenecks in our organisation that are impacting our frontline services,” says Parry. “We see clients faster, deal with them much more efficiently, and their outcomes will be better because we can spot potential problems before they happen."
“As we continue this program, we believe analytics will give us a deeper understanding of exactly which interventions and tools provide the optimal outcomes for the children we work with on a daily basis.”
He says the Power BI analytics project extends beyond just Stand.
The anonymised data is built as a pilot node on the ‘data highway’, envisaged by the government to provide a means of sharing data securely between agencies.
Other agencies will be able to connect to the data warehouse and ask their own questions about the data, he says.
“Analytics is big buzzword at the moment. But once you get a glimpse of how it can turn piles of data hidden away in tables into visual ‘a-ha’ moments, its worth becomes apparent.”
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