National Disability Insurance Scheme participants will finally get access to a digital marketplace of service providers from early 2020 after years of uncertainty over the platform’s status.
NDIS Minister Stuart Robert revealed the planned release of the long-promised marketplace, or “digital market service” as it is now referred to, at the National Press Club last week.
The digital market is core to the market-based construct of disability scheme, giving participants greater choice and control over goods and services.
It will also become a central source of data for the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) to analyse.
A fully functioning version of the digital market, previously known as the eMarketplace, was originally meant to be up and running for the start of the full scheme rollout in July 2018
But in August 2017, the agency cast doubt on the marketplace being ready in time for the start of the full rollout.
The NDIA put this down to its inability to find or develop an appropriate technology platform, though also conceded there were “no known blockages or barriers”.
On Friday, Roberts said the National Disability Insurance Agency was currently working to enable the service to “facilitate, encourage and support the development of a vibrant digital market”.
“This initiative will make it easier for providers to enter the market and grow, providing participants greater access to a broader range of providers, improving the transparency of the market and driving greater competition,” he said.
However, before this occurs, Roberts said the NDIA needs to finish developing a series of APIs to link-up its business systems.
“As a first step, the NDIA is currently developing APIs ... to enable seamless and secure integration with the NDIA Business System in real-time,” he said.
Roberts said the new technology would reduce the “administrative burden NDIS participants and providers face when interacting with NDIA technology”.
The failure to design current IT systems behind the NDIS around the needs of users was found by a parliamentary inquiry late last year as a key contributor to administrative burden.
“Having robust and fit-for-purpose ICT systems can greatly assist the NDIA in meeting its operational targets and delivering quality outcomes for participants,” the report stated.
However, one of the NDIA’s most aspirational IT projects, the AI-powered virtual assistant known as Nadia, remains “temporarily postponed” after more than two years.
In December 2018, the agency sought to blame immature automated speech recognition for the delays.