Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Australian Government Mobile Office

Greetings from day two of CeBit Sydney. The exhibition was better than I was expecting with several halls of the Darling Harbour centre filled with IT products. My award for the best display of the show goes to the Federal Human Services Portfolio for their "Australian Government Mobile Office ". This is a semi-trailer parked in the corner of the exhibition building. It contains a mobile government office, with some medical facilities. This is a very understated display with poor signage and no clear explanation of what it is or why it is there. But what makes this impressive is that this is not a mock-up for the exhibition, it is a real facility which is deployed to help the community. It is equipped with generators, terrestrial and satellitecommunications, so it can provide the community with access to multiple federal agencies in the one place. There is also a soundproof room at the back which can be used for hearing tests (this would also be ideal for conducting media interviews and for confidential video conferencing). The vehicle makes scheduled visits to regional areas, but obviously also have vlaue in dealing with disasters where increases support is needed and normal government offices may have been destroyed. Unfortunately I was unable to find any details of the vehicle or photos. The Human Services Portfolio has done a very poor job of promoting this.

The new Australian Government Mobile Office that travels the nation helping in disasters and offering remote access to a wide range of government payments and services will be on display in Sydney at the CeBIT conference on 24, 25 and 26 May.

Using ‘thin client’ point-of-presence technology, Centrelink employees travelling with the Mobile Office can access the full range of Centrelink services and central servers via 3G, ADSL or satellite connection.

“These mobile offices travel to small communities across Australia, particularly those that don’t have easy access to a Centrelink or Medicare office,” said John Wadeson, former Centrelink CIO and now Deputy Secretary, ICT Infrastructure, Human Services Portfolio, which includes Centrelink, Medicare Australia and the Child Support Agency.

“Staff on board the Mobile Office live and work in rural communities and can provide information, assistance and support to seniors, students, families, farmers and
farm-dependent small businesses – and this technology enables them to do that.

“It also allows for future improvements to our service delivery reach and strength.

“The point-of-presence technology on this Mobile Office allows up to 10 staff to access the Centrelink system in real time.

“Whether operating over 3G, ADSL or satellite, it will be the same system they can see in the office. We can now get satellite connections anywhere in the country.

“Usually, our two Mobile Offices offer access to rural and remote Australia. We can instantly divert them to help in times of crisis, such as floods or bushfires, to make sure people get Australian Government assistance. This is a flexible, mobile presence for Centrelink and other Commonwealth Human Services agencies to be where Australians need them to be,” Mr Wadeson said.

Background on the Mobile Office

The Australian Government Mobile Office initiative, launched in October 2009, is designed to improve access to government services for people living in rural communities by bringing together many services and payments offered through Centrelink and Medicare Australia.

Centrelink Rural Services Officers, Rural Social Workers and Psychologists, and Medicare Australia staff on board can assist with a wide range of services, including:

  • new claims for a wide range of Centrelink payments
  • updating Centrelink and Medicare Australia customer information
  • confirming customer documents and supporting information
  • information on how financial matters may impact on Centrelink payments
  • payment and service options to suit individual circumstances
  • drought assistance claims for farmers and small businesses that depend on agriculture for their livelihood
  • non-cash Medicare Australia transactions such as arranging cheque or EFTPOS claim payments
  • Medicare Australia enrolments
  • Social work support and referrals.

The Mobile Office builds upon the successful Drought Bus program, which provided information and support to drought-affected farmers.

“We are still here for farmers, but the new Mobile Office has been custom-built to provide more flexibility and space to assist a broader range of customers at different stages of their lives,” said Mr Wadeson.

“The vehicle has a small waiting area, two separate interview rooms, three service desks, wireless technology that allows the laptops on board to access the Centrelink customer mainframe, and self-service facilities.

“The floor inside the Mobile Office is completely flat, even when the side is extended, and a special ramp at the rear of the vehicle means it’s wheelchair accessible.

“All communities all have different needs, and the Australian Government Mobile Office initiative recognises that a style of service delivery that works well in one area may not necessarily work well in another.

“The versatility of the Mobile Office means we can adapt the services we offer to suit the specific needs of communities across Australia.”

Itineraries for the Mobile Office are available on the Centrelink website atwww.centrelink.gov.au under ‘M’ in the A to Z index, or by calling 13 2316. ...

From: Mobile Office comes to Sydney technology conference, Media Release, 21 May 2010

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