A data platform to help the homeless

How many people around Australia are experiencing homelessness or are at risk and looking for help - whether it’s food or shelter, health services or counseling support?
That’s a question the people at Infoxchange asked back in January when they launched Ask Izzy, a free mobile website that connects people who are homeless or at risk with over 350,000 services nation-wide.
Ask Izzy was built using funds and support from Google, through the Google Impact Challenge, as well as REA Group and News Corporation Australia. Its designers included people who have lived through being homeless, and the frontline workers who support them.
Google Australia & New Zealand managing director Jason Pellegrino, Infoxchange chief executive David Spriggs and Google.org director Jacquelline Fuller.
The free mobile site provides crucial information for people in need, whether it’s counselling or legal advice, or even just to a meal and shelter for the night.
When Ask Izzy launched Infoxchange chief executive David Spriggs predicted it might have 100,000 users over a two-year period; instead it reached that number in two months, and to date it has enabled more than 200,000 anonymous searches for support. One of the comments from an early user was it had taken him two years on the street to work out what he could find out using Ask Izzy in minutes.
Launching Ask Izzy in January, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Lucy Turnbull spoke with people who consulted on the design of Ask Izzy.
The next step for Ask Izzy is to create a new open data platform that will discover exactly what support services people in need are searching for, and where. Google's charitable arm, Google.org, last week pledged another $500,000 in funding to Infoxchange to help build the platform. The data will help to inform service providers and policymakers so they can tailor services to specific communities.
But it goes beyond just data - with a detailed view of supply and demand across the country, Australia can begin to make systemic changes that will hopefully result in better outcomes for vulnerable people in our community.
Further, the open-data approach will foster innovation and encourage other organisations to become involved. Research from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute shows that there is a mismatch between the supply and demand of services, but we’ve never had the right tool to address this. Ask Izzy is that tool. The Ask Izzy open data platform will be launched in 2017 and will be publicly available.