Every Friday and Saturday night young people converge on Sydney’s CBD. Some never make it home. A new app, developed by Rapido for the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation, is tracking the support provided to youth affected by alcohol, or vulnerable to alcohol related incidents, to ensure they get home safely.
Imagine you’re out in the city on a weekend. You’ve had a bit too much to drink and can’t find your way to the station. Then, all of a sudden, you see them – heroes, each in a high vis vest with the initials ‘TK’ on the back.
This has been the reality for more than 46,000 Sydneysiders and visitors to the city since the Take Kare Safe Space program was launched by the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation (TKYF) in December 2014. This year it was given a boost thanks to UTS’s advanced technology development unit, Rapido.
The collaboration came about after Ralph Kelly, UTS alumnus and Founder and CEO of TKYF, approached Rapido to create a tablet and smart phone app for the foundation’s Take Kare Safe Space program.
“This project,” says Director of Rapido Hervé Harvard, “allows us to contribute to the social good, which not only aligns with the strategy of the university and of the unit, but helps to create a healthy environment for everyone living in or visiting Sydney.”
The ‘Take Kare App’ is designed to record and digitise the assistance given by Take Kare Ambassadors in their marquees and on patrol.
“With the app, we can now collect detailed data more efficiently and effectively”
The ‘safe spaces’ are set up at Darling Harbour, Kings Cross and Town Hall Square every Friday and Saturday night, from 10pm to 4am. Here, the ambassadors offer first aid, water and phone access, and assist with reconnecting young people who may be intoxicated or affected by drugs. Roving teams of volunteers also patrol the surrounding streets offering on-the-spot assistance to people who need it.
The Take Kare program aims to reduce violence that may be related to alcohol and get young people home safely. It was started two-and-a-half years after Ralph and his wife Kathy lost their son, Thomas Kelly, in an unprovoked attack in Kings Cross in 2012.
The app allows Take Kare Team Leaders to log information including details of an incident, location, duration and type of assistance required as well as the individual’s demographic.
Michael White of St John Ambulance is the Coordinator of the Take Kare Safe Space program. He says, “My role is to give my team the tools to do the best job they can, and the app is that tool. It minimises filling out paper work at 4am, which takes away from the good work of our ambassadors.”
White adds, “It frees me up to do interagency work and spend time building partnerships with services. These include the police, security rangers, liquor accords, venues and local government.
“One relationship I’m excited to explore further is with those organisations that are willing to promote the program to increase volunteer engagement. Continuing and maintaining these relationships promotes high service delivery of the program to the community.”
Earlier this year, French student Simon Brouard interned at Rapido as an honorary visiting scholar for three months and created the app from scratch. He says, “There are many internship opportunities in France, but Rapido is different. It enables you to work in the industry with the freedom of a university environment, which is very interesting.”
Brouard worked closely with his “maître de stage" (supervisor) Senior Software Engineer Eugene Vostrikov, who oversaw the process. Vostrikov says Brouard, “did more than expected, especially meeting and then surpassing our milestone requirements”.
Upon Brouard’s departure, software developer Jimmy Tang took over the app’s ongoing development. Says Tang, “My vision is to add a dashboard so that when a Take Kare Ambassador logs in they can see how many people have been helped that day, week or month. A lot of the people at the safe spaces are volunteers, so they should be able to see their impact.”
“I also want to help them do some analytics of the data, such as creating interactive reports,” adds Tang.
Executive Officer at the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation Natalie Zelinsky says, “The vision for the analysis functionality is that TKYF will be able to extract real-time data and reporting on Safe Space interventions, usage, incidents, hot spots as well as provide statistical insight in relation to the various sites demands and volunteer resources.
“We report this data to various Take Kare stakeholders so that they can see first-hand the impact of their contribution on the Sydney amenity and safety of our youth. With the app, we can now collect detailed data more efficiently and effectively. And in the future, we’ll have access to powerful reporting and analytics.”
Of course, technology never slows down. Thus, the next steps for Rapido and TKYF are continued maintenance, troubleshooting and updating the app.
“It’s been a really good experience, working with Rapido,” affirms White. “They’re very down to earth, and nothing has ever been too hard. I have no experience in app development; I just know it needs to be useable, and these guys get that.”
It’s a win for Rapido too. They’re looking to soon launch a pro-bono branch, Rapido Social, which would enable them to appoint a social engagement engineer whose sole mission is to work on technology development for social enterprises such as the TKYF.
Harvard says, “There is plenty of work for software engineers but the work, more often than not, is driven by commercial goals. Here, we’re offering a one-of-a-kind experience, where our mission is social good.”
To find out more about Rapido, contact Hervé Harvard on 9514 2429 or Herve.Harvard@uts.edu.au
To learn more about the Take Kare Safe Space program, visit thomaskellyyouthfoundation.org.au