More than 2000 family caseworkers across NSW will receive an iPhone and potentially also an iPad under a $100 million technology transformation designed to maximise the time spent working directly with vulnerable children.
Like similar initiatives being trialled by a number of state police forces, the large-scale rollout aims to enable each of the Department of Family and Community Service's 2068 frontline staff to complete administrative tasks without having to return to the office.
Introducing the flagship IT project of his first budget since becoming Treasurer, Andrew Constance said the government didn't want to see case workers "in the office drowning in stacks of paper".
"Through the use of technology we can make sure that they are out in the community helping kids at risk."
FACS is already halfway through a seven week rollout of the smartphones, which will eventually be handed out to all NSW caseworkers. The iPads will be subject to an additional review program, and will not necessarily end up in the hands of every frontline employee.
A full tablet rollout would require a reshuffle of funds from within the current $100 million pool.
FACS Minister Gabriel Upton said funding for the "major technology upgrade" would include upgrades to the Key Information Directory System (KiDS) and other back-office infrastructure that would make the case management database compatible with the mobile devices.
FACS executive director of strategic finance, Stephen Mudge, told iTnews that part of the funding would go towards re-developing the KiDS system to make caseworker processes and the generation of reports much more efficient.
Putting together data sheets for court can sometimes take as many as 50-60 clicks, he said, a time burden the department is desperate to reduce.
The funding will also cover the development of applications that will enable data entry straight into the KiDS system from the fleet of mobile devices, including sending images of evidence of child violence straight back to the office, and conducting video-enabled 'go-to' meetings from the field.
The technology is currently being trialled at a number of sites in NSW, but with a clumsy user interface that will need to be redeveloped as part of the project.
The budget commitment inlcudes $60.1 million in capital funding and $39 million in recurrent expenditure between 2014 and 2018.
"The funding is for the early work towards the technology enablement. From here on we will continue testing to ensure that we achieve the best outcome from the committment," Mudge said.