27 October 2015, NDIS New World Conference, Brisbane, Australia
Bruce Bonyhady is the Chairman of the National Disability Insurance Agency
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome. Welcome to the NDIS New World Conference.
I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we are meeting, the Jagera and Turubul peoples and pay my respects to their elders past and present.
The Prime Minister recently said that this is an exciting time to be an Australian.
It"s an even more exciting time to be an Australian with a disability.
It"s exciting because – after years of campaigning, designing, planning and piloting – we are about to move into the full rollout stage of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
It"s exciting because technological advancements, digital disruption and innovation are already transforming the lives of people with disability and creating a world with unlimited possibilities and opportunities.
And it"s exciting because the NDIS is a platform for innovation.
Looking at where that innovation might take us, it helps to think of the NDIS like Moore"s Law.
Moore"s Law states that the processing speeds of computers double every two years.
This exponential growth in processing power is why our phones are far more powerful than the computers that guided the Apollo Moon landing.
The NDIS will also have an exponential impact – as it has the potential to create a future as unimaginable to us today as an iPhone would have been to the astronauts on Apollo 11.
The point I am making is this:
If the NDIS were Apollo 11 we would be counting down for lift off.
This is just the beginning.
With that in mind the thinking behind this NDIS New World Conference is simple:
Bring together people with disability, families, carers, service providers and the technology industry, and focus on the ways in which technology can create that new world for people with a disability.
Technology has a leading role to play in the implementation of the NDIS – not just in the run up to the full scheme in 2019, but in the decades that follow.
How much of a leading role?
That depends on our ambition and imagination.
Now, I"m not a technologist and – as my children regularly remind me – not even a savvy user of technology.
So, I"m not about to stand here and tell you what to create – innovation does not work like that.
Innovation works best when we adopt a start-up mentality.
Innovation works best when we are prepared to try something new – and learn from the experience … and try again. And again.
Innovation works best when we are flexible in our thinking – when we see with fresh eyes – when we are prepared to start at square one … to reframe an issue, as the NDIS itself has done.
Innovation works best when we make it simple – when, rather than building institutions – we put ourselves in the shoes of the people we are serving … and work with them to understand their needs and aspirations.
Innovation also works best when governments get out of the way. When we create enabling environments where innovation, including innovation in technology, flourishes.
Our expectation is that the better we use technology the better the NDIS will be.
With that in mind I want to provide some context by:
Briefing you on where we are at with the NDIS;
Explaining the principles of the NDIS; and,
Outlining the opportunities and challenges of the NDIS.
Let me start with a quick briefing.
Where We Are At
The NDIS is currently being piloted in seven trial sites around the country and has 19,817 participants.
It is on time, on budget and participant satisfaction is above 90 per cent.
Between now and 2019, the number of participants is set to increase by a factor of more than 20.
By 2019 – just four years from now – the Scheme will be rolled out nationally and will have around 460,000 participants.
Government expenditure on disability services will double – from 0.5 per cent to 1 per cent of GDP – and the Scheme will be funded from general taxation revenues and an increase in the Medicare levy.
What taxpayers will receive in return is the security of knowing that every man, woman and child in the Commonwealth who is born with or acquires a significant disability before the age of 65 is covered by the NDIS.
The Scheme will include people with intellectual, physical, sensory and psychosocial disabilities.
It will also include early intervention services for children and adults with progressive disabling conditions.
All participants in the NDIS – all 460,000 of them – will then receive the funds to purchase 'reasonable and necessary" supports.
Let me now quickly explain the principles of the NDIS.
A Revolutionary Idea
The National Disability Insurance Scheme is revolutionary.
It is revolutionary …
not because it is replacing the old system,
not because it is doubling funding,
not because it has created a new Federal body – the National Disability Insurance Agency – making its benefits portable right across Australia.
The NDIS is revolutionary because it is taking an entirely new approach to disability services …
an approach that is built around the needs and the potential of the individual,
an approach that sees the individual as a life-long investment, rather than a year-to-year unit of cost,
an approach that replaces the welfare model of disability services with an insurance model.
In short, the NDIS is based on insurance principles.
Traditionally, the costs of disability services have been approached with a short- to medium-term outlook.
As a result, technology has often been seen more as a short-term cost than a long-term investment.
The insurance model of disability – and its approach to technology – are radically different.
Under an insurance model, expenditure is factored in over the life of an individual and scheme sustainability is measured by calculating and controlling the total future costs of all those who are insured.
This approach creates an incentive to make short-term investments that reduce long-term costs.
For instance, the best way to reduce long-term costs is to increase an individual"s independence and enable their participation in the community and work.
That means taking an individual approach to services – giving people what they need right now, including cutting edge technology for which there is an investment case, to help them live a more productive life for the rest of their lives.
That might mean …
funding a person the type of wheelchair – or even two specialised wheelchairs – that maximise their independence at home and in the community,
or providing an iPad that includes specialist applications to help a person with an intellectual disability learn the skills they need to live and work in the community,
or using the Agency"s lifetime cost estimator to approve the purchase of a hoist or other equipment that makes it possible to get a person with a physical impairment out the door to university or work with one support worker rather than two,
or using technology and the internet to help participants in the NDIS make informed choices – and allowing those participant-led choices to spark new services, opportunities and innovation.
Technology has a central role to play in the success of the NDIS – participant by participant.
But the success of the NDIS is also in the national interest.
In 2011, the Productivity Commission undertook a major independent analysis of disability care and support. It found that the NDIS would result in an additional 320,000 people with a disability and 80,000 carers being employed and boost Gross Domestic Product by 1 per cent by 2050.
This means that while national expenditure on disability services is projected to increase by 0.5 per cent, in return, the economy is projected to increase by 1 per cent.
In short, the NDIS is a sound investment in our economy, as well as our society.
I"d now like to turn to some of the opportunities for new technologies and new applications of technology that the NDIS may create.
The NDIS itself is in part a product of technology, because the organisers of the Every Australian Counts campaign used technology brilliantly to build, motivate and mobilise a supporter base of more than 150,000 people.
The campaign was an old-fashioned grassroots campaign that became a national phenomenon through the agency of the Internet and the connectivity of social media.
Now the NDIS will repay the favour by turbocharging investment in technology.
When fully rolled out, the NDIS will invest $1 billion-a-year in technological supports and devices.
Not only that, how and where that $1 billion-a-year is spent will be decided by the 460,000 participants in the NDIS.
One of the defining characteristics of the NDIS is control and choice.
Every participant in the NDIS will have control over the services and supports they receive.
Those services will be individualised to suit the reasonable and necessary needs of each participant.
Those services will be highly decentralised, with local area coordination of locally-based care.
And support through the NDIS will be portable.
If a person with a disability wants to move to another state with their family their entitlement to the NDIS – and therefore their level and standard of care – will move with them.
Only time will tell how people exercise their choices – and control their lives.
In other words, we are creating a $1 billion market for technological innovation in disability services.
If companies want to win a share of this market, they will need to be competitive.
They will need to think national and act local.
Some of the competitors and some of the enablers will be global, because the NDIS is a major global opportunity.
For example, IBM, Apple, Microsoft and Google – are considering incubating accessibility ideas in Australia as a direct result of the NDIS. They are all at this conference.
The National Disability Insurance Agency wants to create an enabling environment which encourages innovation and new entrants, as well as established players.
We are also looking to create an e-market.
When the NBN is complete, access to the internet will be close to Australia-wide and this will help to underpin the Agency"s rural and remote strategy. The NBN"s target for full roll-out is 2020 and so aligns closely to the NDIS.
Organisations that use technology smartly will have an advantage.
Technology will also play a very important role in facilitating diverse and competitive markets.
The more competitive the market, the more power will shift to individuals and the greater will be the efficiency, effectiveness and innovation, which will contribute to the long-term sustainability of the NDIS.
Technology will also help participants become informed consumers.
New apps are already being developed and many more will follow.
As a result the technology market generated by the NDIS will be much larger than $1billion.
Some of the new technology will be specialised.
Some new technologies will be developed as part of mainstream responses as companies seek to broaden their customer bases to include those with impairments.
In other cases, technology developed primarily for people who do not have disabilities will have particular benefits for those living with disability. An example is text to voice and voice to text software.
Voice recognition software has developed enormously over the past decade – making life easier for everyone.
However, if you are vision impaired or have limited literacy skills due to an intellectual disability, voice recognition software can literally open a new world.
On the other hand, technologies to translate information into other languages or, for example, easy English are in their infancy. But I am confident that in time we will see major improvements.
For a country as culturally and linguistically diverse as Australia, this will create major benefits, including amongst people with disability, because disability does not discriminate.
The digital divide is normally characterised in terms of income or access but there is also a digital divide that applies to people with disability.
Technology can add to this divide or reduce it.
Technology can also help to build inclusion and create new forms of social capital.
For instance, in Sweden the internet is bringing isolated parents of children with profound disabilities together with experts to teach them about augmentative and alternative communication and to form networks of support.
Another group in Sweden is working with local governments to create 'Social Rescue' – an app that allows people with disability who are travelling alone and not feeling safe to connect with safety houses, friends and relatives.
In many ways the internet is the ultimate social good.
Traditional business models, and especially new businesses, have had an immediate revenue imperative.
In contrast, with the internet and internet start-ups the currency is usually new subscribers – which is why so many online services or apps are either free or relatively inexpensive.
That"s why the internet is an 'open-source" opportunity for people with disability, which we are seeking to highlight through this conference.
As I've said, these are exciting times. But challenging times, too.
Challenging because scaling up and then industrialising the operations of the NDIS is complex.
Challenging because there is no turning back – because the old ways of doling out disability services was broken.
Challenging because we need to find new ways to build a new, more inclusive nation – a nation that no longer shuts out people with a disability, together with their families and carers.
Challenging because we need to create a new world – and that"s why this conference is so important.
Technology therefore provides a major opportunity for people with a disability, of still unknown dimensions.
Our ambition needs to match the size and scale of the opportunity.
We need to seize the opportunity of the NDIS right now.
We need to be agile.
We need to treat people with disabilities as partners.
We need to recognise that co-design is essential.
We need to create an environment that fosters the development and use of smart technology side-by-side with the NDIS.
We need to enter a New World.
Then people with disability will be equal citizens and have equal power.