Technology Can Bring Us Together.

And We’re Willing To Put $30,000 On It.

It’s often touted that new products or ventures should solve a problem if they have a chance of succeeding. And in this age of information and digital technology, it comes as no surprise that open data is being used more and more to solve real-world problems.

Los Angeles (LA) is famous for many things – from the bright lights of Hollywood to terrible traffic. One way technology is helping with the latter can be experienced with Waze, an app that uses real-time traffic data to provide users with the fastest route. Waze partners with more than 200 government entities to collect data such as real-time emergency dispatch information, traffic updates and road planning to give better route information to users.

Traffic jam across five lanes of traffic

It’s this principle—technology-enabled solutions using data sets to address real problems—which has led to government bodies opening up their data doors to foster innovation and create better communities.

City of Melbourne understands that technology is key to presenting data and information to users in accessible formats. Coupling this with the startling statistic that almost one in five Australians experience some form of disability, City of Melbourne has launched an Open Innovation Competition on Accessibility to help people with disability actively participate in city life.

The competition seeks submissions of data-driven and technology-enabled solutions to a range of problem areas identified by members of the disability community.

At the competition’s launch, Janice Florence, who is part of the City of Melbourne Disability Advisory Committee, spoke about the importance of elevating the perspectives of people with a disability and ensuring they are at the forefront of identifying access barriers and participating in the development of solutions.

She said, “Under the social model of disability, as opposed to the more traditional medical model, people are disabled by the barriers placed in their way by society – not by their condition. It is seen as society’s responsibility to remove these barriers, not to focus on their condition as a deficit.”

By creating solutions for, and with, those who have a lived experience of disability, it will ensure the solutions are considered, effective and diverse while enabling the entire community to enjoy and access the experiences Melbourne has to offer.

The problems identified by the advisory committee relate to accessible parking, footpath navigation, wayfinding, and increased flexibility and spontaneity in city experiences. The competition is asking for data-driven solutions that address some of these barriers put in place by society which limit accessibility for the whole community; barriers that could be removed through innovative ideas that use existing government data to solve real problems.

Those solutions could take the form of an app that uses real-time parking sensor information to give the end user live updates on available parking spots and detailed information on access provisions, like access ramp availability. Another option could be an audio-based app that uses crowdsourced information from other users along with data like event permits, pedestrian sensors, road surface types and street furniture to provide a vision impaired user with up-to-date route options through the city.

Melb City Lane

“Melbourne city lane” by Rae Allen is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Submissions for the Open Innovation Competition on Accessibility close on April 1 2018 with a total prize pool of up to $30,000 available.

To place those with a lived experience at the forefront of the competition, three drop in sessions have been programmed. These will provide participants with an opportunity to seek advice and feedback from experts, members of the accessibility community, and experts from the City of Melbourne and the start-up community. Find out more about these sessions.

While the accessibility challenges experienced by our community are significant, much of the information that could solve these problems already exists. So delve into the available data sets on parking bay sensors, building permits and activity monitors, direction signs for pedestrians, and buildings with accessibility and public toilet locations, and use these to create technology and data-driven solutions to address these accessibility problems can foster greater community participation and civic pride for everyone.

Find out more.