Innovative solutions to social problems

This year’s Department of Human Services Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) ICT graduates showcased their skills in the third annual ‘Battle of the Innovators’.

Staged in Canberra on 23 November, the home team played host to opponents from Adelaide and Brisbane as they competed on how to use cognitive computing to solve a social problem.

While their football fans are still licking their wounds, Adelaide’s Service Delivery Centre gave its city something to celebrate, taking out the 2017 title for their creation, ‘Arcas’.

Named after the son of the Greek God Zeus, Arcas is a mobile phone application that assists homeless people to gain access to the department’s services, food, accommodation, health and transport.

Team member Emily Drum said the app would help homeless people get back on their feet.

“We know 95% of homeless people have mobile phones, and a lot of those are smart phones. Arcas helps connect those experiencing homelessness with service providers and the department,” Emily said.

Teams presented to an audience of 300 in the Canberra Technology Innovation Centre, while the event was also live-streamed to the Adelaide and Brisbane delivery centres.

They were judged by a panel including Chief Information Officer Gary Sterrenberg and 2018 ACT Australian of the Year Dion Devow.

Gary said all three teams demonstrated how cognitive intelligence could be used to improve services.

“We think one of these ideas could be the game-changer we need to improve the services we provide to all Australians,” Gary said.

“It’s events like this that foster innovative ideas, and it’s important we use that to drive the needed service delivery change across Australia.”

Dion is an Indigenous entrepreneur who produces media and clothing in collaboration with Aboriginal designers and staff.

He encouraged other Indigenous people to pursue careers in technology and the public sector.

“Creativity and innovation is needed in every area, not just business,” Dion said.

“It’s good to see DHS taking a lead in doing things that are different, thinking outside the box and creating events like today.”

Emily said her team is looking forward to making Arcas a reality and encouraged people to consider joining the STEM ICT program.

“The program is a fantastic opportunity to work in a great workplace and really help the Australian community. DHS is a wonderful place to work and our transition into the organisation has been smooth and well supported,” Emily said.

Note to media outlets: Video news release footage of this event is available here .

More information

  • For more information on the STEM program, or if you would like to apply for the 2018 intake, please visit our website.