A remarkable new iPhone app has been developed using Gold Coast City Council open data to help people with disabilities find disability services anywhere on the Coast.

The aim of the first-of-its kind project was to create a mobile phone app that would provide disability access information for the people and caregivers who need it most.

The pilot version of the Access GC App, now available free at the AppStore, draws on a repository of data provided by the Gold Coast City Council through its ‘Open Data Initiative’ to map out the disabled parking facilities that are currently available to the community.

Sponsored by Regional Development Australia (Gold Coast), the App was developed as a collaborative effort between Griffith University’s School of Information and Communication Technology, FSG Australia, the Perry Cross Foundation and the Gold Coast City Council.

Professor Michael Blumenstein from the School of Information and Communication Technology said the inspiration came about from the stakeholder’s view that the Gold Coast could be the most accessible city in Australia.

“Ian Pritchard from Regional Development Australia (Gold Coast), approached me earlier this year about an opportunity that he had been discussing with FSG and Perry Cross in relation to creating an app for the benefit of the community,” said Professor Blumenstein.

“We thought that a mobile phone app which could assist with locating accessible areas in the city was a good starting point as we wanted to deliver something practical and achievable,” he said.

“I have been with the project from the beginning and brokered the discussions with RDA, commenced the planning and negotiated the funding required.

“We invited Ray Stevens MP to view the initial version and one of our ICT lecturers, Dr Jolon Faichney hosted an Open Data workshop at the Gold Coast, which introduced us to the GCCC Open Data architect who provided us with support to obtain the relevant data.

Access GC App for disabilities services

A screenshot of the Access GC App for disabilities services on the coast.

Creating more connected communities

Executive Officer for Regional Development Australia, Gold Coast Ian Pritchard said the project was a result one of RDA’s priorities to create more connected communities.

“We identified a need to assist the sector of community which has access challenges,” Mr Pritchard said.

“We also saw it as a great opportunity to use Council’s open data, and this was indeed the first project to take advantage of Council’s open data policy.

“One of the main obstacles was getting the mass of available data from the Council into a usable format for the app, but Griffith students David Topolanksy (Bachelor of Information Technology – Advanced Honours) and Joseph Hoareau (Bachelor of Digital Media) found some innovative ways to overcome this.

“The app is unique as we’re not aware of another app which uses open data in such a way to benefit the disability sector.

“It is also easy to use and intuitive as well as being adaptable to use in other regions outside of the Gold Coast.”

Open Data is the idea that certain data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they like, without any restrictions and the Gold Coast City Council is committed to publishing a number of priority sets of data in an open manner.