Using technology in service delivery to families, children and young people
Whether it's connecting with others, finding information or accessing and engaging with services, "going online" has become an integral aspect of modern life in Australia. This paper aims to give an overview of how using technology innovatively can add value to organisations working with families, children and young people. The use of web-based technology can, for example, increase awareness of an organisation and engagement with a broader audience, aid dissemination of targeted information and messages to clients in a timely and cost-efficient manner, and directly improve client outcomes (see Box 1 for definitions of different types of web-based technologies).
Box 1: What do we mean by "technology"?
Throughout this paper we use the term "technology" to refer to a range of web-based and Internet-enabled platforms and tools. This section gives a brief overview of some of the most significant of these.
The term "Web 2.0" describes websites that use technology to facilitate users' interaction and collaboration with each other, as well as to generate their own content and virtual communities. It is the current overarching context of the Internet, and sits in contrast to earlier websites that limited the user experience to the passive viewing of content. Examples of Web 2.0 include, but are not limited to, social networking sites, blogs, wikis, video sharing sites, and apps.
Social networking sites
A social networking site is a platform for building social networks and relationships among users. Most social networking sites are web-based, allowing users to interact over the Internet and share ideas, images, events and interests with their networks. Social networking sites often involve a recommendation system based on trust, and allow users to express their appreciation (or lack thereof) for particular content. Popular services include Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, and LinkedIn.
A mobile device is a portable computing device, usually featuring a touch screen. Most mobile devices have the capacity to run application software, known as "apps" (see below), and most allow Internet connectivity. Smartphones are a particularly common form of mobile device, as are tablet computers such as iPads.
An app refers to a program or piece of software designed and written to fulfill a particular purpose for the user, such as playing games, keeping a calendar or surfing the Internet. It may be self-contained or require an Internet connection. For the purposes of this paper, we will focus on apps that assist with the delivery of services to children and families; for example, apps that enable separated families to connect safely and positively (see the MyMob case study for more information). Most often apps are associated with use on a mobile device such as a smartphone.
A podcast is a type of digital media, usually consisting of a recorded audio file, that can be listened to by "streaming" via a website, or downloaded onto a computer or mobile device for later offline listening. The media may also be a video file, which are also sometimes called "vodcasts".
A webinar is a seminar conducted over the Internet in real time, using specific software. Users generally log in to view the presentation slides (and sometimes the presenter) via their computer, and can listen to the audio via their computer or telephone. Users may ask questions or make comments during the seminar by typing into a text box and having them responded to by the presenter.
This paper is introductory in nature, presenting a brief overview of the current Australian context and benefits, concerns and barriers regarding the uptake of technologies. Introducing new technology into an organisation does not have to—and most often should not—involve replacing existing face-to-face or "offline" services. Rather, using technology to improve or augment existing services, or to offer new and innovative possibilities, can assist in the enhancement of service delivery, as illustrated by the case studies provided in this paper.