Tuesday, 19 August 2014 17:02

HubCare 'brings government to citizens'


A Melbourne based company is promoting easier interaction between people, government departments and service providers.

HubCare is one of those relatively unknown - at least to most people - Australian companies that does interesting and useful things.

Group executive officer Ruby O'Rourke told iTWire that HubCare has been in business for eight years and is an "outcome broker for government."

What that means is that it provides people with bidirectional information sharing with government departments and service providers.

More than a million people have already opted-in to the service, which gets around the need to provide information individually to organisation such as Centrelink or a childcare centre.

And in return, participants have access to a portal that delivers information in a way that is "culturally relevant to the citizen," said Ms O'Rourke. "HubCare is about turning the way Government interacts with citizens around, so that government goes to citizens, rather than citizens going to government."

Individuals have control over their own 'vault' of data, she explained, granting API access to government organisations so they can deliver services.

Director and co-founder David Salajan pointed out that people can withdraw from HubCare's services whenever they like, and if they wish they can leave their data stored on AWS or move it elsewhere.

"People have the right to go into their data and pull down the windows and close the door," he said.

So what do the company's systems actually do? Please read on.

One example of HubCare's activities is the Children's Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Program co-developed with the Hunter New England region of the NSW Department of Health and Population to encourage healthy eating and physical activity among children.

It provides a convenient way for parents to notify childcare centres of any food allergies their children suffer, and allows them to see 'today's menu' along with other information relevant to childcare. It also includes a mechanism to show that centres are actually buying the food they purport to be serving.

Another example is the PROTECT child protection system co-developed with NICTA. Ms O'Rourke - who believes that children should own their own data to help in situations where their 'responsible adult' is not the best person to make decisions on their behalf - explained that governments have developed back-end systems for handling child protection cases, but people tend not to report unusual behaviours or unexplained injuries.

So to get away from the idea of suspicion or accusation, the system allows people such as swimming school teachers to record their observations. Analytics are then applied to these observations to generate a "story," she said.

HubCare has developed or is developing other systems, including one to support the use of private identities when dealing with government authorities, and another to present an integrated view of a citizen's dealings with government.

The strategy is not to replace government systems, but to feed them with data they need, using the FOFMS (FaCS [Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs] Online Funding Management System) for data interchange, she explained.

The various systems also provide governments with dashboards showing the state of affairs. For example, on the day iTWire interviewed Ms O'Rourke and Mr Salajan, there was 98% attendance at childcare centres across Victoria.

HubCare dashboard

"Basically the governments have told us what they want to see," Ms O'Rourke said, adding that the dashboards will in time be made available to the public: "it's good accountability."

Mr Salajan told iTWire that HubCare has been using Amazon Web Services since 2009 due to its elasticity (for example, the company's systems get little overnight use), load balancing, and support for quick deployments.

Ms O'Rourke said HubCare switched to AWS after it experienced reliability issues with its previous provider.

While the company charges transaction fees for some aspects of its systems (eg, when parents book childcare through HubCare), it is not charging governments for operating the child protection system.

Data is encrypted at rest and in flight, and the company adheres to the National Privacy Principles, said Mr Salajan.

HubCare has international aspirations, and Ms O'Rourke said AWS was very supportive in this regard and may help the company enter the US market next year.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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