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Aussie company launches new chatbot service for homeless youth

Infoxchange has announced it is working on a new chatbot service for homeless youth in Australia. With support from the Telstra Foundation, the service is designed to help vulnerable Australians better connect to support and services.

Powered by the Telstra Foundations Tech4Good challenge, the website Ask Izzy, launched in 2016, connects  people in need with housing, meals, money help, family violence support, counselling and more.

The service is free and anonymous, with over 370,000 services listed across Australia and has had more than 2.5 million searches on the site since it was first launched.

Ultimately, the website has the aim of providing a conversational, personalised and supportive way to connect young people at risk of or experiencing homelessness to services, the company says.

According to the 2016 Census of Population and Housing, nearly 60% of homeless people were aged under 35 years. This spurred Infoxchange to work on the next evolution of Ask Izzy to help homeless youth connect to the services they need.

Set to launch in March 2020, the chatbot is currently in design and testing and is the biggest change to the Ask Izzy platform since 2016.

Through the chatbot functionality, Ask Izzy will better help connect people to the support they need, while maintaining human connection and integrity for its users, Infoxchange states.

Originally pitched as a voice assistant, research found that young people are more likely to use a chatbot. Through workshops and interviews, Infoxchange is working with service providers and over 35 young people with lived experience of homelessness to co-design chatbot functionality.

Infoxchange CEO David Spriggs says, “It’s important for us to partner closely with service providers and young people with lived experience of homelessness, to ensure were developing technology that will help disrupt the cycle of youth homelessness.”

“Were excited that were able to make big changes to the mobile site, with another two years of support and funding from the Telstra Foundation,” Spriggs says.

Telstra Foundation head Jackie Coates says, “Telstra has been a long-standing supporting partner in the development of Ask Izzy, and were thrilled to be part of the next phase of the journey with Infoxchange.”

Ask Izzy is free to use on the Telstra mobile network, meaning that people can use the service without credit or access to Wi-Fi.

Also just launched is the Telstra Top-up programme, which provides a complimentary $30 recharge to those who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness and or/family violence.

The programme is available to specialist housing providers via Infoxchange across Australia and eligible services have already been sent an invitation to opt in.