Victorian authorities will fund a project that specifically targets female coders and designers, putting them to work on service delivery and efficiency programs inside government.
The Code for Victoria II – Women in Tech program will receive $450,000 from the state government’s $11 million Public Sector Fund, with the project aiming to consolidate the state’s position as the country’s leading tech destination and provide work for its swathe of IT graduates.
Victoria currently produces more IT graduates annually than any other Australian state or territory, but Special Minister for State Gavin Jennings said the real test is retaining this talent.
“To remain number one we need to ensure more women get into this growing sector and with this program we are doing just that,” Mr Jennings said.
“[The program] will ensure the brightest and best women coders and technologists get their chance to work alongside our public servants to improve government services.”
Victoria currently boasts more than one-third of Australians doing postgraduate studies in IT, and the highest number of undergraduates.
The funding will allow women from Code for Australia’s Innovation Fellowship program to work within state departments to improve government services for six months.
It’s the second time the state government has provided funding for such a project, with $365,000 provided in April last year for three teams to be injected into state departments for half a year. That program concluded in January.
The teams of three include an engineer, designers and project manager, who then work with public servants on current issues and use technology to improve them, Code for Australia managing director Alvaro Maz said.
“We embed geeks – in the most respective and admirable way – into government agencies. The teams give a go to as many ideas as the government may have with the intention of finding something that has legs and can reduce costs, improve efficiency and give a better experience for their user group,” Mr Maz told InnovationAus.com.
The first program saw the coders and designers working on projects for Victoria Legal Aid, Parks Victoria, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and the Department of Treasury and Finance.
The group working with Victoria Legal Aid produced an app that automated the process of sending reminder texts to clients, significantly reducing no-show rates, as well as an app providing information to potential clients.
The first installment of the project did not focus on female coders and designers, and only three out of the nine participants were women. It’s understood that the second round of the program will be embedded in a different set of government departments.
The latest cash boost will allow the organisation to take this program to the next level, Mr Maz said.
“In the last eight months we’ve seen what our remarkable community of public servants and talented technologists is capable of,” he said.
“We now want to raise the bar to ensure a greater diversity of people become involved in civic life to solve critical public issues.”
While the new technologies produced by this program get most of the attention, the real effectiveness of it is changing the way Victorian public servants think, Mr Maz said.
“The technology that we produce gets all the glitter from the program, but the program also acts as a process of empowering public servants to think differently and do things differently in the future,” he said.
“It really has been a transformational experience for them to see a different way of working and that if they have an idea they can do it, they don’t need to wait for budget or political backing. There’s small hanging fruit that they can start tweaking now.”