The idea of social inclusion as both a descriptor and policy objective has and is becoming an important issue within social democratic states and development literature. In particular, significant work has been undertaken in the United Kingdom, The European Union and more recently Australia. It is Not for Profit (NP) agencies and Non Government Organisations (NGO) who have historically taken the lead in advocating for those who are marginalised or excluded.
Research and findings by NPs and NGOs have described in some detail the elements that can lead to exclusion such as poor health, disability, poor infrastructure and lack of transport. Social exclusion is clearly understood as a complex set of interactions rather than simple cause and affect. Often requiring an understanding of the problem at a neighbourhood level. It is within this complexity that the day to day stories of people and their neighbourhoods and communities and the meanings they ascribe to their lives in relation to the many excluding elements is overlooked. This is both an outcome of the way data is collected; top down, as well as and the belief by many in policy, government and business who ascribe to the idea that it is only the few who protest or are marginalised by with the term NIMBY (not in my backyard).
To overcome this significant problem we need to radically rethink how we gather community data, undertake planning and use existing data. I believe that we can use Information and Communication technologies (ICT) to facilitate the gathering of people’s individual stories and neighbourhood information. These stories and local information and knowledge can then integrate these with traditional planning data to build a richer and textured understanding of peoples lives. By enhancing understanding of people lives services could be planned and delivered in more appropriate ways to meet those communities and people most at risk.
I believe this could be achieved in 4 ways;
➢ Use mobile phone technology to allow residents to map their local communities and neighbourhoods. This could be done by taking photos or videos on camera phone, automatically geo-coding on the phone, and finally attaching tags both predefined and free text to image. This information could be them emailed to a web site where it could collated in real time. Such things as access to community by people with disabilities could be recorded eg steps and gutter, recording areas that are unsafe or dangerous because of lack of maintenance or infrastructure, state of schools or hospital infra structure and so forth.
➢ Develop and build community / regional data / knowledge repositories where the data and stories could be kept and analysed by existing regional bodies with assistance from peaks and made available free of charge to local NP, NGOs and Government agencies. Data from State, Territory and Commonwealth Governments and there agencies must be provided free of charge and in a form that can be used an integrated with local gathered data and stories to maximise the available knowledge. As part of this process there must be a rationalisation of ABS boundaries and government planning boundaries so as they are consistent in definition and scope to enhance data analysis and reduce cost and confusion.
➢ As part of local planning processes government agencies and others must use this data and provide inclusive deliberative planning processes where the community and others discuss the data, its meaning and reflect on how this could and must shape service delivery and accountability. The use of data and information and transparency in policy development and planning of services must be underpinned by reliable and accurate data and information and a commitment to engage with the citizen.
➢ NP and NGOs must be given ongoing and finical support to appropriately manage the ICT infrastructure and administrative needs to ensure they can both supply and use data and information to plan, deliver and review services appropriately.
The idea I have is not radical and nor technically difficult. Elements of this are currently underway around Australian and Internationally. What is essentially required is change of culture at Governmental and Service provider level, which understands and believes the citizen have valid stories to tell, and that these should be listened to. What this proposal does is seeks to use technology to enhance data gathering and analysis by using existing and pervasive technologies to develop a more responsive, transparent and better directed social care service system.